The Sheriff’s Office is warning residents to be on alert to a Social Security phone scam that’s grown more active in Santa Barbara County. Just this week, officials said, a number of residents lost thousands of dollars to the con artists. One victim lost $11,000.
In the scam, the caller claims to be with the Social Security Administration. They often provide a phony name and badge number. The caller claims that the victim’s Social Security number has been compromised and connected with some sort of criminal activity, their bank account is in danger of being blocked and seized, and their Social Security benefits could be canceled. The caller tells the victim they must quickly go to a bank, take out their money, and put it into gift cards. Elderly residents are often targeted.
The scammers, authorities warn, have the ability to digitally clone the actual phone number of the Social Security Administration so it appears on a victim’s phone’s caller ID. But there are a handful of tips to remember if a person may think they’re being conned:
- The Social Security Administration will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards.
- You do not have to verify your Social Security number to anyone who initiates a call with you.
- Never give any part of your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number to anyone who contacts you.
If you are worried the call may be a scam, hang up immediately, the Sheriff’s Office said. The best practice is to only give personal information if you initiate the call.
To report phone scams, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint.