The telephone number was a strange one: 800-159-4556.
For a couple of seconds, I debated answering the phone. Usually, I will ignore calls from toll-free numbers, but this one looked odd.
When I answered, I was met with a computer-generated voice that said:
“Dear citizen, this is to notify you that due to a certain suspicious activities related to your social security number, we have been forced to suspend your social security number with immediate effect. Due to this, all your social benefits will be cancelled until further clearance. In case you feel this is an error, you may connect with legal cells, a social security administration in order to connect with the social security administration officer, press one now. In case we do not hear from you, your social will be blocked permanently to connect now, press one…”
I pressed one.
“Thank you for your response. We would now like to transfer you to a full taker for just a few more questions. Please stay on the line.”
Then, a man was on the other end of the line.
“The reason you received the call from our department because we have received orders and notices from law enforcement agencies to suspend your social security number,” said the man on the other end, after I gave him a fake name and social security number.
This is a new take on the IRS phone scam. In this call, I was given two addresses here in El Paso and asked if I had any connection to them. I was then told that the State Rangers and the United States Marshal Service had raided those homes and quite a bit of Mr. St James’ (the fake name I gave him) financial records were found.
As our call progressed, I was informed that my name and social security number was used for banking purposes, and monies were being sent under my name to Mexico and Columbia.
“Are you sure that you have no connection to this,” I was asked again.
I was told that under USC 42:1958(c) (which was repealed July 29, 1971), I was facing a term of nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Our call went on. He asked me to verify the name of my bank, and the balance in both checking and savings. Asked me which credit cards I have and what my line of credit was. He tried very hard to convince me that he was with Social Security and in contact with the state police, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Marshal Service. He even went as far as placing me on hold so he could communicate my answers back to them.
In the end, I was told that the US Marshal’s would not pull the warrant until they spoke to me and that my assets were going to be frozen pending the investigation – which could last up to two years! But not to worry, he said. He wanted to consult with his ADR team.
What he wanted me to do was let them, the IRS, file an alternative dispute resolution with the U.S. Marshal Service, the state police as well as the FTC.
“Because this is a recorded line and you already told me that you are not the person and are innocent, I’ve approved the ADR for you based on this call,” he said.
What did I have to do? Send them my money to safeguard!
What Mr. Scammer wanted me to do was take the maximum amount out of all my accounts – savings, checking, my credit card – and send it to them via an app that they were going to direct me to download.
Then, when the U.S. Marshal Service came to talk with me tomorrow to clear me and give me a new social security number, I would show them the code in the app, and I would have all my money back.
Simple, right? Not really.
The man who called me was doing his best to make this sound like an urgent matter. Throughout the call, he continued to reference the fact it was recorded and that other federal agencies were involved.
It sickens me to think about how many people may fall prey to this scam.
Just keep these tips and facts in mind if you receive such a call:
- Social Security, or any federal agency, is not going to call you and tell you that you are the target of a criminal investigation;
- Social Security does not safeguard funds during any investigation;
- If anyone you don’t know asks you for your name, address, social security number, hang up and report it to the police.
For more information on scams, visit the Common Scams and Frauds page maintained by the U.S. Government.
The call was twenty-one minutes long, when I told him I was not Michael St. James and asked how often his scam worked, he hung up. It’s long, but take the time to listen to at least the first few minutes so you’ll be familiar with this new scam.