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CLEVELAND – The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs and its Scam Squad partners are issuing an urgent alert to County residents to hang up on callers who claim there’s a problem with their Social Security accounts.
In the newest scams, someone posing as a Social Security employee or law enforcement officer tells the intended victims they are about to be arrested because their Social Security number was linked to a drug crime in a border state.
“Residents said they were told their Social Security numbers were somehow traced to a seized car filled with drugs. Sometimes scammers say there was also blood or a body at the scene, just to make the call more jarring,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. “People are told they need to make a payment to head off the arrest or keep their benefits flowing. This is not how our justice system works.”
Scam Squad partners are reporting a surge in Social Security scams of all types.
In other versions of this scam, people are told they need to pay to clear up fraudulent activity on their Social Security accounts. One Cuyahoga County resident said someone posing as the sheriff told her there was fraud on her Social Security account and instructed her to put money in an e-wallet to “protect” it during the investigation.
“We’re seeing a drop in IRS scams, but these new Social Security scams are catching a whole new group of victims off guard,”Harris said.
Use these steps to avoid scams:
- Don’t answer calls you aren’t expecting, unless they’re family. If you accidentally pick up a robocall, hang up.
- Don’t trust caller IDs. Numbers can be spoofed.
- Delete vague or threatening voicemails. Do not call the numbers back—you’ll only get more calls.
- If you worry about the status of your Social Security account, contact the agency in person or by calling 1-800-772-1213.
- Know that legitimate government agencies will never ask you to pay using an e-currency account (for example, Bitcoin), Google Play or other gift cards, mailed cash or money wires.
- If someone calls to tell you that you’re about to be arrested, hang up! It’s a scam. Police don’t warn people they are on the way to arrest them.
“Older people who rely on benefits can be especially vulnerable to these types of scams,” Harris said. “We really need County residents to share warnings about these scams with their friends and family.”
Scam Squad is a Cuyahoga County senior financial fraud task force that includes local, state and federal agencies and nonprofits who serve seniors.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.