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Social Security phone scam targeting county residents

A scam artist has been repeatedly calling Hubbard County residents this week, threatening arrest and a lawsuit — unless the victim supplies their bank account information and Social Security number.

In the voice mail, a female says, "Your name, the local county sheriff is going to arrest you for serious allegations. Before this matter goes to the courthouse and we freeze your bank account and suspend your Social Security number and get you arrested. For more information regarding this case, you can get back to us at 469-856-8869. Make sure you give us a call back before you get arrested."

The call purportedly emanates from Midlothian, Texas.

Ironically, even Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes received the phony call.

Aukes reminds the public "that federal agencies do not operate that way" and "to not provide private information over the phone" unless you are certain about the source.

Being asked to provide personal or financial information is one of the telltale red flags of a scam, advises the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. "Never provide your private information in response to an unsolicited call, email or text. Instead, call the entity at the number listed on its website or on the back of your card."

Concerned that susceptible seniors may fall for the scam, Sarah Smith contacted the Enterprise to spread the word. She received the call Tuesday morning.

"It had such a threatening tone to it, and I'm educated. This one kind of concerned me," she said. "When I called back, I got some joker that didn't even speak English."

Bob Guelker of Nevis received the same threatening call "from a 489 area code I didn't recognize, with no identifying information who was calling." Recognizing it as a scam, he ended the voicemail.

"Then I received two more of the same voicemail over the next 10 minutes. And again a few hours later," he said. "I can see where a vulnerable person might take this kind of call seriously. They really don't pull any punches in attempting to frighten your personal information out of you. I might suggest that families and friends talk about these scams so nobody returns such calls. Yes, get the word out!"

In December 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Social Security scams, like this one, are growing exponentially. "To compare: in 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000" while in 2018, "more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they've lost $10 million."

The FTC reminds consumers, 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. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time."

If you get one of these calls, report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

Smith noted that she is on the FTC's Do Not Call Registry. According to the state Attorney General's Office, many people are bombarded by unwanted telephone calls, even though they are on the registry. "Modern technology has enabled scammers to place millions of 'spoofed' calls over the internet and boldly violate the Do Not Call law — and evade detection."

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