Social Security threat backfires on scammer

Caller can’t cut off SS, Medicare benefits for not cooperating

A 76-year-old Rockdale woman and her daughter foiled a scam attempt by a particularly persistent con artist last week and she’s concerned the scammer might try again with another potential victim.

The scammer called Mary Yates twice, not realizing that she and daughter Lacy Whitt were turning the tables on him, contacting the real Social Security Administration on a cell phone in the middle of his scam attempt.

Yates said the scammer called her and identified himself as a representative of the SSA.

“I think he wanted me to be impressed that he knew my name and phone number,” she said. “But what didn’t impress me was that he didn’t know how to pronounce it. He called me something like ‘Yot-is’ instead of ‘Yates’.”

THREAT— But it was no laughing matter. “He told me they were going to send me a new Social Security Card and a new number and they needed some information,” she said.

It wasn’t too hard to figure where the conversation was headed next. “Get your checkbook,” the scammer commanded.

“It just so happened I had my checkbook right there because I had been paying bills,” she said. “He told me to read the routing number on one of my checks. I actually read a couple of numbers before I realized what was happening and stopped.”

That’s when the threats started. “He got mad and told me ‘you must cooperate; I am Social Security. I can cut off your benefits and stop your Medicare’,” Yates said.

Yates didn’t give him any more numbers. The persistent caller tried to make the best of it, using what’s known as “cold reading,” a technique in which a charlatan parrots back conversation pried from a potential victim as if it were privileged information.

“He tried to prove he was a real employee of Social Security by telling me he knew my bank routing number and reading back the few numbers I’d just told him seconds ago,” Yates said.

She hung up.

But the story didn’t end there, just yet.

DOUBLE-TEAMED—Yates went outside to tell her daughter, Lacy Whitt, who lives nearby, what had just happened and when the women came back into the house the phone was ringing.

You guessed it.

“Lacy answered and she got on him pretty good,” Yates said.

The mother and daughter did more than that.

“ She kept him talking for about five minutes while I got on a cell phone and called the real Social Security Administration,” Yates said. “ They confirmed it was a scam and said they’d gotten lots of calls about this kind of thing going on.”

‘FIGHTING BACK’—Then the women made a call of their own, to The Rockdale Reporter.

“ This is kind of our way of fighting back,” Yates said. “I want people to know this is going on and tell people not to fall for it. It’s so cruel that someone would even think of this.”

“You know I was raised during the World War II era and we were taught to respect authority. Women, especially, were taught not to cross men in authority,” she said.

“I think these scammers know this and I think they target older women and we’re just not going to let them get away with it,” Yates concluded.

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2013-07-25 digital edition

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