Many believe they would never fall for a phone scam. But one young woman just lost hundreds of dollars and wants to warn others about how easy it can be to fall victim to a scam.
Mary Kulik was heading home from her job as a payroll clerk when her cell phone rang.
"The caller said they were calling from the Social Security Administration office," she said.
According to Kulik, the caller told her that her Social Security card had been "suspended for reasons of suspicious activity." The caller also told her that 32 bank accounts had been opened with her Social Security number.
Scared, she hung up — which is always a good idea when receiving a threatening call.
But the phone rang again, with her caller ID showing a local police department. The caller ID convinced her that the call was real.
The "officer" told her that she was in legal trouble.
"(He was) screaming at me that I broke the law, I had a warrant out for my arrest, and they were going to arrest me unless I could prove to them that I did not open these accounts," Kulik said.
He directed her to drive to Best Buy and purchase gift cards with her debit card to prove she had an active bank account.
"He said just go inside, get two gift cards for $500 each, and come back outside and let me know," Kulik said.
The officer on the phone initially told Kulik that police would meet her in the Best Buy parking lot. But for some reason, they couldn't make it, so he told her to confirm her identity to him via the phone and prove her innocence.
The officer on the phone said if her bank cleared the gift card sale, then she was off the hook. It doesn't make sense to Kulik now, but in her moment of panic, anything to make this nightmare stop was worth trying, she said.
So, following instructions, she read him the card numbers.
It was all a scam. The scammers took the $1,000 in Best Buy gift card and immediately cashed in online.
Now, she wants others to know about her experience, as embarrassing as it is to recount publicly.
"If you get a call about your Social Security card, just hang up. No matter what they say, just hang up," she said.
Remember: no agency will ever call threatening immediate arrest. And they will never, ever ask for money over the phone.
That way, you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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