Playing With Scammers
We are always grateful to our many readers who share their stories with us. One such gentleman recently told us how he played with Indian scammers who called him to say that his social security number was involved in fraud, resulting in an arrest warrant being placed against him! (We’ve received dozens of these scam calls ourselves but have never had the time to play with the scammers.) We’ll call this TDS Reader “T.” Here is his story of how he played with the scammers for an hour.
T is an elderly gentleman in his 70’s. Upon receiving a call from an unknown number that showed up on CallerID as coming from Fremont, Ohio, T knew it was likely fraudulent and decided to have some fun. He answered and pressed 1 to speak to an “agent” of the Social Security Administration. The man who came on the line identified himself as “Neil Matthews” from the Social Security Office in Washington DC. T noted that Neil Matthews, which is a very American sounding name, had a foreign accent, likey from India or that region of the world. Neil Matthews asked T to confirm that he was FULL NAME from FULL ADDRESS, which he did. (The scammers had clearly done their homework. They had his full name and address, as well as his phone number, to make their fraud appear legitimate.) T was told that his social security number was being used in El Paso, Texas, from two different addresses. Neil reported one address as 7609 Ocean Street, followed by another address that T didn’t quite hear.
[When we visited Google and searched for the address 7609 Ocean Street, El Paso, Texas, instead of returning links to/about this address, Google returned NINE top links related to social security scams! Here are just 3 of those links:
This is What a Social Security Scam Sounds Like (FTC.gov blog; 12/27/2018)
Social Security Number Phone Scams Costing Victims Millions (CBS News; 4/11/2019)
How to Avoid the Social Security Scam That Makes You Out to be a Criminal (VC Star; 2/13/2019)
T was assigned case number “EMC 7010” and told that there was a warrant out for his arrest as a result of the fraudulent activity! They asked him if he had been to the Mexican border, though he didn’t know why they asked. We’ve learned that this scam has victims believing that their social security number is connected to people who are running drugs and/or money laundering at the border with Mexico. T told them yes, back in 1963 he had been in that area. They asked him what was the purpose of his visit. He replied “just to have fun.”
The scammers then told him some legal BS that his visit was authorized by “Section 42C, 1958.” (We couldn’t find any Texas law related to “Section 42C” that made any sense whatsoever. These scammers are easily exposed if one simply asks questions and doesn’t accept their answers as legitimate!) However, The scammers asked T if he wanted to get a lawyer, or if not, they could handle it with an “ADR” (Alternate Discharge Resolution). (We suppose that the scammers think they’ll intimidate people if they throw enough legal jargon and acronyms at them to overwhelm them!) T said “sure, if it doesn't cost me anything I’ll handle it ADR.” Neil also impressed on T that he should keep the circumstances of this call completely private. He shouldn’t even discuss it with his wife because, Neil suggested, his wife could have been the person to steal his social security information and misuse it. Again, the fake SS Agent emphasized, DO NOT talk to anyone else about this! (Of course, this tactic is meant to isolate a victim to prevent him/her from asking a friend or relative for advice about the call. The scammers are afraid that someone might tell the victim that this is likely a scam!)
T’s response did not make the scammers happy. They then told him that two agents would come to his house the next day to arrest him. Smiling to himself, T quickly replied that he didn't want any agents coming to his house. He said “how would that look to the neighbors?.” “Well, we can find another way to take care of it” said the scammer Neil Matthews. So, they assigned him an “ADR Approval @3227741” to have the charges removed. However, this meant that he had to talk to the El Paso Dept. of Treasury. They told him to hold on, and accept the call from the Dept. of Treasury while putting Neil Matthews on hold. This was all very bizarre but T hung in there, eager to see where they heck this was leading.
He quickly gets the call from an “agent” identified as coming from El Paso, Texas. The caller, claiming to be from the Texas Department of Treasury, reiterated that this was a very important call, and not to discuss this with anyone. T was now growing a little impatient. He wanted to push back and put some pressure on the scammers. He asked the new agent what County he was in. The man first replied “USA.” T asked again, he then said “El Paso.” T countered with “The county? I thought that was the city you were calling from.” The new agent became irritated and then said he was in Winton, Texas (which is 641 miles east of El Paso).
Moving the scam along, the El Paso “agent” told T they would be issuing him a new Social Security Number. But, again, the agent emphasized that T was not to share any of this conversation with anybody! The agent reminded T that his Wife may have been the one to steal his Social Security number, so don't even tell her.
According to this article at AARP, there are only 3 reasons that are acceptable to the Social Security Administration for issuing a new social security number. They are:
Sequential numbers assigned to members of your family are causing confusion.
Another person was assigned or is using your number.
You have religious or cultural objections to certain numbers or digits in your original number.
Both scammers told T that they did not want any of his account numbers. But, they told T he had to verify his identity by withdrawing all but $20 from his checking account in the next 2 hours and placing it in a 'secure' digital account opened in his name that they would set up for him over the phone. And only T would have the vital information to this new digital account. (OH YEAH, RIGHT?) Thinking quickly, T told them that it was 5:30 by that time and the banks were closed, so he couldn't do it that day. Then he told them that he would have to get his attorney involved in all of this. The scammers replied by saying that T would be arrested in the next two hours! By this time, T’s game was played out. All he could reply with was, “Oh well.” That was when one of the scammers said “Are you playing me? F U!” and hung up on T! Of course, this only made T smile, having spent an hour wasting the time of two scammers from India.
T told us of an interesting observation he made while communicating with these scammers. Whenever one of the scammers talked to him, he always heard a lot of voices in the background, and then silence as if the scammer kept his microphone off when T was speaking because the man was likely in a boiler room of scammers! T also told us that he felt the most credible part of this scam was that they seemed very sincere about helping him to clear his name from the activity that happened at the Mexican border. They wanted to be on his side to make sure he’s OK. That was, of course, the greatest lie of all!
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