Just hang up: Law enforcement officials warn of possible Social Security phone scam

Possible Social Security Scam

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Thanks to previous warnings, retired business owner Bernie Petro knew exactly what to do when he received a suspicious phone call late last week.

Petro said he received a call from an out of area number, and when he answered, a recorded voice claimed his Social Security Number had been suspended. According to the call, there had been some fraudulent or criminal activity associated with the number, and if Petro wanted to have it reinstated, he needed to call back right away.

“I hung up, because right away I knew, Social Security does not call you," he said. "So I hung it up, I got the number, and I told my wife that I’m going to let the TV stations know that this call is out there for the seniors.”

In addition to alerting WECT, Petro said he called the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the North Carolina Attorney General.

The call was not an uncommon occurrence, however.

“Oh, we get tons of calls, I think we had 20 calls in the past week of unknown name, unknown number, and we just hang up, or don’t answer it,” he said. “My wife’s even got a whistle. She blows a whistle in the phone.”

Petro said he wanted to alert others of the possible scam, because he worries about his neighbors.

“We live in a development that’s pretty heavy with seniors, and I don’t want my friends to be down-loaded with this stuff,” he said.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Josh Stein’s office said they are aware of this type of call going around. Earlier this year the office saw a similar uptick in calls claiming issues with Social Security accounts.

As with any potential scam, the AG’s office offered the following advice:

  • Don’t answer phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t ever give out your Social Security Number or other personal information to a person who called you.
  • If you get a call from someone who says there’s a problem, hang up and call back using a known number you have.
  • If you think you may be the victim of a scam, hang up and call the Attorney General’s office at 1-877-5-NOSCAM.

New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon emphasized those points as well.

“There are so many scams, over the internet, over the phone, asking for your personal information," he said. "My advice to everyone is, don’t give out any personal information over the phone, over the computer, and never go purchase credit cards or any types of things and send them anywhere.”

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