MONTECITO, Calif. - A disturbing social security phone scam sweeping the country for years is ramping up in our area, aimed at stealing your social security number and your money. Montecito resident Gene Tyburn said he got one of the calls around 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.
"Some guy gets on phone with a heavy accent," Tyburn said.
He estimated between he and his wife, they receive roughly 50 of these social security scam calls a month.
This particular scam has targeted people of all ages and socio-economic levels in just about every state for a number of years.
This is how it works: the caller claims to be with the Social Security Administration and warns the person targeted that a no-bail warrant has been issued for their arrest. If the conversation continues, the caller often threatens that an armed deputy is headed to the person's home.
"A real person answers after you press 1, which I've done several times to see what would happen," Tyburn said. "The last time I said, 'The FBI is listening!' And the guy said, 'Oh, please don't do that!' I thought it was pretty wonderful that I got a human response out of the whole situation."
Many people targeted by the phone scam panic and follow the caller's instructions to send money. Experts estimate the social security phone scam has tricked consumers out of more than $19-million dollars in the past year.
Tyburn said he's not falling for the scam, but he is annoyed that crooks are still making the call and getting away with it. He said he's appealed to every local agency and would like County and City politicians to look into the matter.
"We're sending people to the moon, we're talking about sending people to Mars, and we can't stop robo phone calls coming from god knows where," Tyburn said.
Experts with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have said the best defense is to hang up and tell someone; the more people who know about scams, the less likely crooks will be able to get away with stealing people's money. A phone call to police and/or the Social Security Administration is also recommended if you're truly worried your information has been compromised.
The Santa Barbara Police Department issued tips from the Inspector General to help prevent this type of fraud:
- Never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contacts.
- Never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person's name.
- Never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person.
- Always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.
To verify the legitimacy of a caller who claims to be an SSA employee, call your local Social Security office, or Social Security's toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213. If you find that someone has stolen or is using your personal information to open credit accounts or for other non-SSA-related purposes, you should report that to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT. You can also find more tips on protecting your personal information on that FTC website. And you can report suspicious activity involving Social Security programs and operations to the Social Security Fraud Hotline, or by phone at 1-800-269-0271. Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals can call OIG's TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.
For more information from Social Security, click the following link: https://www.ssa.gov/