Law enforcement warns of latest phone call scam gaining traction around country

A new scam going around involves phone calls alerting community members that their Social Security number has been "suspended" due to fraud.

The scam, which the Internal Revenue Service has called the "SSN hustle," is just one of many scams aiming to scare victims into providing personal information.

People all over the county, including Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley, have reported receiving these calls in the last month.

"Anytime someone receives a phone call from someone asking for specific information (SSN, DOB, bank account info, etc), they should always refuse to give the number and instead call the institution or governmental agency directly and ask if the call was valid," Sheriff Pixley explained.

The Social Security Administration can be reached at 1-800-772-1213.

"The biggest signs of a fraud is someone asking for personal information over the phone, asking for money or advertising the person won some large sum of money but prior to receiving the prize, they have to pay a specific amount of money," Pixley wrote in an email to the Spotlight.

Scam artists can make phone calls appear to originate from different numbers, so caller ID can't always be trusted.

There are six key signs of a scam, according to the Oregon Department of Justice. It may be a scam if someone: contacts you unexpectedly; claims there is an emergency requiring immediate action; asks for personal or financial information; asks you to wire money; instructs you to not tell family or friends; or simply sounds too good to be true.

Older adults are often targeted by scammers. With phonebooks now available online, it's easier than ever for scammers to find phone numbers, full names, and addresses, Klem explained. The DOJ's campaign encouraging people to hang up the phone on suspicious calls "is really aimed at older adults," Klem said. "They always answer the phone."

This particular scam has been growing in popularity since last year, said Ellen Klem, director of consumer outreach and education for the state's Office of the Attorney General. Scams often garner more public attention as they go on, and increased awareness can help protect community members. But without receiving complaints from consumers, agencies may not be aware that scams are going on.

"If the call is fraudulent or if the victim believes it to be fraudulent, I would ask them to write the phone number down as well as any names given and report it to law enforcement," Pixley wrote. In Columbia County, call 503-397-1521 to report. You can also report scams to the DOJ online or by calling 1-877-877-9392.

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