CHARLOTTE, N.C. — John Mangieri said callers pretending to be with the Social Security Administration called him more than 20 times recently.
"They all told me that my Social Security number was involved in a serious criminal fraud," he said.
He said the scammer had -- what seems like -- a very natural question.
"Their lead question was, 'Just to verify that we're talking to the right person, give us please your Social Security number.' That's how they get your number and then they can do damage to a victim's finances," Mangieri said.
Mangieri said he didn't fall for it.
But Jeanine Manning said she did.
A scammer left her a message, saying, "Your Social Security number, we have got an order to suspend your number because we have found many suspicious activities on your Social before."
She called the number provided. She told Action 9 they asked if she'd been in Texas. "I said, 'No.' They said, 'Well, somebody rented a car under your name and Social Security and they found it on the side of the road with blood and cocaine in it,'" Manning explained. "'You have a warrant out for your arrest right now.' And I'm almost in tears now because they scared the crap out of me."
Once again, she said, the scammer wanted to start at the beginning, by verifying her Social Security number. So, she gave it to the criminal.
"My kids were shocked that I would fall [for it], but they scared me so much, I just did what [they said] because I didn't want to get in trouble," Manning said.
But the impostor wasn't done. Manning said he wanted her to pay money to get out of the mess.
"They told me to get gift cards," she said.
So she went to Walmart and Food Lion.
"They had me three or four hours, driving around," Manning said.
She said the scammer stayed on the phone the whole time, coaching her through it and making sure she didn't call anyone else.
She told Action 9 she paid him $4,200.
"I worked hard. I had a CD for my kids for when I pass away, I can at least have something for them, and now it's gone," she said. "I have nothing. It's all gone. I have nothing left."
The Social Security Administration said to Action 9 this scam has been popping up a lot the last few months all across the country. It's not clear why. But, the agency says, the "callers are using increasingly threatening language."
- Unlike the IRS, Social Security employees do call people. But it's usually when they've been working with you on your case. They won't threaten you, especially with arrest.
- Don't give out your Social Security number over the phone, especially to "verify" it to a stranger.
- If you really think there's a problem involving your Social Security number, call the Social Security Administration.
- But look up the number.
- Don't rely on the one the caller gives you or the one that shows up on your caller ID.