Social Security scams getting more elaborate to ensnare victims

“It’s not right. It’s not fair for people to try to take advantage of anybody else.”

A Washington Twp. man is warning others about a scam, one that experts call one of the most elaborate plots they’ve ever heard of and involves more than one victim in the scheme.

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Russell Maas said the caller offered to help him change his Social Security number and hide his money in e-commerce accounts because he was under criminal investigation involving a vehicle in Texas.

“He said the car had $200,000 in cash and blood in it, and as a result of the investigation they traced the car back to me,” Maas said.

The caller knew approximately where he lived and offered to meet at a Target store nearby to help with the money transfers.

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Many scammers are overseas and use spoofed numbers, so this plan for a local meeting was a twist.

“One of the most elaborate, yet intriguing murder mysteries,” said Better Business Bureau President and CEO, John North. “The stories continue to evolve.”

North said the scammers may use a second victim to conduct an in-person meeting. “Someone here in the area that they have catphished,” he said.

“They link them to this story, ‘hey I’ve got someone that’s going to meet you in the Target parking lot.”

Catphishing is the act of manipulating a person online to send money or give up personal information to the scammer, or catphish.

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People are getting wise to many traditional scams, so the trend now is detailed plots.

“They are trying to find the right mechanism to hook you in,” North said.

Maas said he quickly realized the callers were trying to scam him by getting access to his bank account, but he played along to get as much information as he could to warn others.

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“It’s such a threat to especially seniors. When you get older you are not quite as quick on your feet and the loss of any money could be a significant financial impact,” Maas said.

To keep your personal information safe, the BBB recommends that you:

  • Don't reveal details over the phone.
  • Check for a legitimate URL before filling in website forms
  • Change your passwords frequently.

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