ROCK HILL, S.C. — Qaden Lee let the scammer ramble on and on. The caller said he was with Social Security and that Lee was under investigation for drug trafficking, as well as money laundering.
After about five minutes, the caller asked Lee, “Do you have any questions regarding the case and your problem activities?”
“Yeah, I do,” Lee answered. “How do you feel being a fraud? How do your parents feel right now knowing that you work for a company that does this to people like myself?”
By the end of the call, the scammer appeared to get frustrated and spouted racist remarks at Lee, who is African American.
“How can we hurt this guy? How can we be mean? And it went racial,” Lee told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “I didn’t take it personal. They don’t know who I am as a person, so to make those claims about me, it doesn’t really hurt me because they don’t know me.”
Lee said he contacted Action 9 to help get the warning out so others don’t fall victim to the scam.
“I just want to make people in our community aware of that,” Lee said. “A lot of us work hard and we shouldn’t be giving away our personal money to somebody else that doesn’t deserve it.”
Many other viewers contacted Action 9 about the same scam, so Stoogenke asked the FTC and the Social Security Administration for numbers.
The statistics showed that nationally, so far this year, the FTC has counted more than 20,900 complaints and more than $7.3 million in losses. The FTC said the average person lost around $1,600.
Social Security spokesperson, Tracy Lynge, told Action 9 that scam complaints dropped sharply early this year but are on a sharp upward trend recently. She said the agency is going after scammers, their helpers here in the United States, and telecom companies that allow these calls to U.S. phone companies.
She also said the SSA currently has more than 20 criminal investigations dedicated to these scams and expects more arrests and indictments soon.
Lynge told Action 9 that the best defense may be awareness.
“I think the key to defeating the scammers is always going to be through public outreach, because no matter how many individual scam facilitators or scammers we take down, there will always be more,” she said.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said they have fielded 927 complaints -- with 74 consumers having lost a total of $36,010.
You can’t stop these impostors, but you can avoid them. So, remember:
- The SSA (or any government agency) will never call to threaten you.
- It will never ask you to wire money or pay with gift cards.
- It won’t suspend your Social Security number.
- If you really think you’re in trouble, hang up and call the right number.
- Don’t trust your Caller ID
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