Young professional scammed out of $4,000: ‘I think it could happen to anybody’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A young couple says they never thought they'd be the victims of a scam, but after a fateful phone call earlier this month, they're rethinking all the misconceptions they held about scam victims.

CBS4 Problem Solvers spoke to the couple, who are newlyweds, and agreed to hide their identity because the husband works for a prominent local company.

"I fell right into the trap," he said. "I haven't even told my parents."

The scam started with a phone call. When he answered, someone on the other end of the line immediately told him he was in trouble.

"(They told me) they had found a car that had a number of illicit items and bank statements and banking information that contained my personal information," he said.

The scammers said they were from the Social Security Administration in Texas, and the man had been to Texas recently for work. They also read him his own social security number, name, and address, so he stayed on the line.

"That kind of made it a little more serious in my mind. I was like, 'Well, if they have that information, then this is legit,'" he said.

What followed were hours of arguing and being transferred to different people. At one point, he asked to speak with someone in Indiana, and he quickly received a call from a 317 phone number. He said the scammers claimed they were trying to help him.

"(They said) they were the only person that I could trust, and I couldn’t trust anybody because my personal information has been compromised," he said. "'I’m here after hours trying to help you, you know, I’m a family man and I’m doing this to help you, do you not want my help?'"

Eventually, it was money that he was told could make it go away.

"I saw so many red flags, but I didn’t key up on them," he said. "They scare you to the point where ... you’re not thinking straight, you’re reacting."

The scammer told the man it was too late in the day to pay with so-called "Government Electronic Pay Vouchers," but they would take gift cards instead. So, he rushed to a nearby gas station, just missing his wife, who was on her way home.

"I just got this, you know, that feeling, 'Okay, I know something's wrong, I need to do something now,'" his wife said after seeing him speed past her in his car.

She texted him and found out where he was, but by the time she arrived at the gas station, it was too late.

"The damage had already been done," she said.

The man ended up giving the scammers the access codes to eight $500 Google Play gift cards, for a total of $4,000. He's since been told that money is gone, and since the scammers have his social security number and personal information, he had to take every step possible to freeze his accounts and protect what he has left.

"I beat myself up pretty good for the first couple days, I was like, 'I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I fell for it,'" he said.

That's why the couple decided to talk to CBS4 Problem Solvers. They wanted more people to know that scammers are getting better and better at what they do, and there is no "typical" scam victim.

"You either blow it off and you let it happen to the next person or you step up and, you know, say something and try to help others," the man's wife said.

Here are some red flags CBS4 found in the couple's story that can keep you safe:

  • Scammers may already have your personal information, including your social security number, when they call
  • They'll give out phony badge ID numbers, warrant numbers, and other numbers you ask for to identify them
  • They'll often transfer you to other people, sometimes through an official-sounding phone tree, to try to seem legitimate
  • If they ask for gift cards, it's a scam!

"Anybody that calls you from a number you don't recognize, you can't believe anything now," the man who was scammed said.

You should take the couple's example and remember that a scammer wants to keep you on the phone and scare you as much as possible. Instead of letting them lead you on, don't be afraid to hang up.

"I think it could happen to anybody," the man said.

If you do fall victim to a scam, it's important to report it. You can do that with your local police department, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Do you have a case you'd like CBS4 Problem Solvers to consider? Contact us at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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