Anchorage woman scammed by fake government employee
Officials: Sophisticated crime rings create desperate scenarios to steal money
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Anchorage woman lost more than $4,000 after falling victim to a scam that appeared to have originated from the Social Security Administration. She never thought she would fall for a scam and now wants others to be alerted to this type of crime.
She asked to remain anonymous, so this article will refer to her as her “Vicky.” Vicky recalls the long hours she spent on the phone and the toll it took on her.
“I felt like it was almost the last straw,” she said.
It happened on a Saturday morning when Vicky received an urgent call from a man identifying himself as “David,” who claimed to work with the Social Security Administration. David told Vicky she was in legal trouble because someone in Texas apparently stole her identity and was attempting to frame her for a crime. Vicky vividly remembers what David told her, “somebody rented a car in my name and that car was found at the crime scene just abandoned and apparently there were some, I don’t know, drugs.”
Vicky was shocked because she had a close connection to Texas and David seemed to know a lot about her. She says he warned her that in order to prove her innocence she’d have to cooperate with him and do exactly what he said.
“He told me we need to secure my finances, we need to secure my funds so the government won’t seize them. Because what they’re going to do now is that they’re going to take all my funds from all of my accounts to make sure I’m not going to run away, or whatever,” she said.
David told Vicky to go to a grocery store in Eagle River and drain her bank account by purchasing all the $500 Nike gift cards she could afford.
“Then he told me they’ll issue me a new Social Security number and all the funds will be returned to me after the investigation,” she said.
Vicky was then instructed to photograph the cards and pin numbers on the back and text those to a secure government phone number. She says she tried several times but the texts wouldn’t go through, that’s when David became agitated and told her she wasn’t cooperating with the investigation. Vicky says that eventually the texts were delivered.
“I tell him, ‘I think I was able to send it, did you get it?’ He said, ‘let me check with my colleague,’ and then like 10 seconds later he’s like, ‘oh yeah, I got it, perfect,’ and he’s so happy,” she said.
David then told her to do the same with her credit cards. That’s when Vicky grew more suspicious, realizing the money she would use on her credit cards would be borrowed and was not “her” money. Plus, after six hours of being on the phone, Vicky was exhausted and that’s when she finally drew the line.
“He keeps telling me how I’m not cooperative and I’m so in trouble and this is going to get played in court tomorrow, and I’m like what court?” she said.
Vicky eventually got off the phone and realized she had been scammed.
“I was just wiped completely, I couldn’t believe what just happened,” she said.
Roseann Freitas, with the Better Business Bureau that oversees Alaska and Hawaii, says this type of scam can happen to just about anyone.
“Unfortunately we see it all too often where the scammers use that tactic of impersonating an authority figure,” Freitas said. “These are sophisticated international crime rings that are doing most of this, this is what they’re doing day in and day out. They’re the masters of persuasion,”
Freitas says government employees will never threaten someone or make demands. They’ll never ask for payments via gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency, and if you ever get suspicious it’s OK to simply hang up the phone or tell them you’ll call them back. Freitas warns to never call them at the number they provide. Instead, do your homework and look that number up yourself. If you are scammed, promptly report it to the BBB or FBI.
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