Area man victimized by elaborate Social Security scam

May 17, 2019

A Santa Paula man fell victim to a phone scam that just about cleaned out his bank account after he was told that he was on the verge of being arrested for government fraud.X

A Santa Paula man fell victim to a phone scam that just about cleaned out his bank account after he was told that he was on the verge of being arrested for government fraud.

The 65-year-old male resident asked to remain anonymous following the theft several weeks ago.

“I received a call about a week ago from a man who identified himself as an investigator from Social Security,” who told the area resident the he had been the victim of identity theft.
Using the victim’s Social Security number, the “thief” had opened numerous bank accounts that were also being used for money laundering.
Although the Social Security investigator said he had uncovered information that proved the victim’s innocence, he was still on the verge of being arrested the next morning at 10 a.m. on a warrant issued by the FBI, IRS and the Santa Paula Police Department.
“Everyone,” said the victim, “would be after me…but the man who said he was investigator made me feel like he was trying to prevent me from getting in trouble, he was the one that would save my butt.” 
The “interesting thing is, I know about those scams and I always felt so sorry for the people naïve enough to be seduced to do this,” but he admitted that thinking a scammer was working on him didn’t cross his mind, “Just at the same time I felt scared, guilty and afraid.”
The victim, who had $1,790 in a local bank, was instructed to withdraw $1,700.
“He told me to keep $90 in the bank,” no doubt not to arouse the suspicions of the clerk who might ask questions.
The bizarre aspect of the crime was that the victim was instructed to keep his cell phone with him wherever he went while the scammer walked him through the process.
“I was on the phone for three hours and 15 minutes…we got disconnected and he called me right back. When he sent me to the bank he told me to put the phone in my pocket and the whole time he stayed on the phone, listening to me. It was like he was trained,” to keep people off balance emotionally.
And the victim said he was “caught at the right time, one of the worst times,” he was having with family issues.  
By withdrawing the money the victim was told he would be securing it by sending it to Social Security.
“I was told to go buy gift cars, the largest possible amounts,” of Google Pay and another cash card specified by the scammer.
“I’m not very good at using my phone or using my computer or all those devices so,” so the victim said the faux government agent, “looked it up himself where to buy the cards he wanted me to purchase in Santa Paula. First he told me to go to Target but when I told him it was in Ventura,” the scammer said a Santa Paula drug store sold the cards he wanted used.
Due to a transaction failure at the drug store, the victim was instructed to go to Target.
“So I found myself driving all the way to Ventura to Main Street,” the scammer schmoozing him all the way, cautioning him not to speak while driving and asking if he was parked in a safe place once he reached his destination.
“He was,” said the victim, “very thoughtful.”
The transactions completed the victim was assured that once things were cleared up the next day he would be issued a new Social Security number and a new bank account opened with the funds he sent.
The scammer stayed on the phone with him until the money was sent and the transaction completed.
“For roughly a half an hour I was still on the phone with him at the house…it made me feel good and not as a worried.”
He was told that the next day at 10 a.m. a Santa Paula police officer and a Social Security investigator would arrive at his home, question him and likely would give him the benefit of the doubt, especially as the scammer would communicate the victim’s innocence to them.
The next day the victim watched the clock — five minutes after 10 a.m. he called the Santa Paula Police Department to let them know he was waiting at home for their visit.
“When I started to explain to the dispatcher what had happened she cut in and said ‘Do not give him money! You didn’t give him any money, did you?’ Then they sent an officer over.”
Through several generous donations the victim was able to pay his rent but was short on other living expenses until his Social Security check – a real one — is deposited.
The victim, a native European, has been in the United States for 32 years, “So I know scams,” Social Security and otherwise.
“My grandchildren,” he added, “gave me a piece of their mind because they could not fathom,” their grandfather could be victimized.
“Now, I’m willing to talk to people not crowds, but I’m open to talk to people,” about his experience, especially those, “that it might make a difference for…”

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