CBSNEWSPATH– It starts with a robocall, then a scary message about social security fraud. It’s one of the most troubling scams targeting senior citizens. Wednesday, the Senate heard from a devastated woman who lost her entire life’s savings.
Utah Resident Machel Anderson said she was distracted taking care of her grandchildren when she got the call. The caller claimed Anderson’s social security number had been compromised.
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, she described how she fell for the con. “This man told me that my family was in danger, that my social security number was being used by a very powerful drug cartel and that they would be watching my every move – that to protect our money, I would need to transfer all of it to a safe offshore account.”
Anderson wired more than $150 thousand dollars to Hong Kong before she realized she’d been scammed.
“I was asked by someone, how could you be so stupid?” Anderson told CBS News, “But at the time that I was going through it, it was very real.”
Seniors lost nearly $38 million dollars to the social security scam last year alone, and many are embarrassed to admit they fell for it. At the hearing, Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “The emotional and psychological toll for those who have lost hard-earned life savings are beyond measure.”
Many fraudulent calls are from foreign countries, and the Justice Department is cracking down on telecom companies to stop them from routing those calls to U.S. phone numbers. For now, millions are getting through. Andrew Saul is the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. He says, “If a caller says there’s a problem with your social security number or account, hang up.”
The Social Security Administration says the best way to protect yourself is knowing how to spot a scam.