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Social Security number phone scam costing victims millions: FTC

Phone scam targeting Social Security numbers
Phone scam targeting Social Security numbers 02:17

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a nationwide phone scam. Thieves are making millions preying on people's concerns about Social Security numbers.

When Wayne Chertoff's caller ID told him the U.S. Social Security Administration was calling, he picked up to hear a woman's voice.

"She said that in El Paso, Texas, somebody was using my name and Social Security number to send thousands of dollars to Mexico and Colombia," he said.

It was news to him.

"She said, 'Well, you have an arrest warrant out there,'" Chertoff said.

To get rid of the "warrant," he followed the woman's instructions, buying $1,400 worth of Google Play cards at a drugstore, then gave the numbers off the back of the cards to the scammers over the phone. She told him he'd get the money back. But when no one called him the following day, he knew he was scammed.

Chertoff is one of many. Seventy six thousand people have complained to the Federal Trade Commission about the scam, which is already outpacing an old IRS scam.

The FTC said that scam took in $17 million in its peak year. This Social Security call scam is already up to $19 million for the year ending March 31.

"What we have are scammers who have decided that it's too recognizable to pretend to be the IRS anymore," said Monica Vaca with the FTC. "They know that they can't get away with that nearly as easily. So they've come up with a new angle, a new twist. something people aren't expecting."

Chertoff is sorry he ever answered. 

"One thing led to another and now i'm sitting here," he said.

You should never give out your Social Security number over the phone. But now the FTC is saying do not trust your caller ID.

Beware of these common tax scams 02:57
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