Great-grandmother loses $2,000 as social security scam targets central Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS — People across central Indiana have reported being targeted in a similar scam by people who claim to be federal authorities.

Emery Banks recently lost her social security card, which made the great-grandmother vulnerable to scammers who called and told her the card had been used in a crime.

“He told me that, ‘I’m the FBI, they have a warrant out for your arrest because they found the card somewhere in Texas,'” Banks said.

The man kept Banks on the phone for hours, directing her to drive to a store and buy four $500 gift cards. Not long after she followed his directions and gave him the numbers on the cards, Banks hung up and realized she had been scammed.

“I just broke down and cried because I could not believe that they did this to me,” Banks said. “This is very unfair, especially to the elderly like me … who (are) trying to live and make it every day.”

CBS4 heard from another Hoosier who reported losing $1,000 through gift cards in a nearly identical scam. A search of the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker also turned up multiple reports since January of scammers using the same story, involving social security numbers being used in a supposed crime in Texas.

“They’re going to want you to get in an emotional state where you’re thinking something is wrong,” BBB of Central Indiana CEO Tim Maniscalo said.

Here’s what you need to know: the government will never call or text you about an issue with your social security number or card. This scam can take different forms, but one common thread is that scammers will ask for payment using an unusual method like gift cards or wire transfer.

“If ever someone wants you to pay with a gift card … that’s a real red flag,” Maniscalo said. “Scammers love gift cards. Once you give them the gift card number, the money’s gone.”

Banks quickly found that out, which is why she hoped to turn the tables on the scammers by getting the word out to as many people as possible about the scam.

“I’ll tell anybody, beware of these scams because it’s out there and they don’t care who you are,” Banks said. “I’m not going to be scammed like this again.”

For more tips on how to spot a scam like this one and what to do about it, visit the BBB website here.

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