By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
State police are warning area residents of a new scam targeting local Social Security recipients.
A victim of the scam in Mercer County contacted authorities, and the Social Security administration, after receiving a letter from Social Security seeking to verify her address change. Her mailing address was changed online by a still unidentified scammer who sought to divert her Social Security checks to Florida.
“She is an elderly lady who didn’t open an account online,” Sgt. M.S. Haynes, assistant detachment commander of the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment, said. “She contacted Social Security and was able to get it straightened out pretty quickly that her (address) had not been changed. Obviously that is fraudulent. We don’t know how they obtained her information, but somehow they obtained it and were able to set up an account online.”
Haynes said the letter the woman received from Social Security was legitimate, and was simply seeking to verify her online change of address request. When she contacted Social Security, she was informed someone had set up an account for her online that changed her address to Florida.
Had the checks been successfully diverted to Florida, Haynes said the scammer would have then cashed the checks and stole the woman’s money. “But she was able to catch it in time,” Haynes said.
Haynes said all area residents are urged to open and read any letters they receive from Social Security in light of this new scam. If they receive a letter seeking a confirmation of an address change — and they didn’t request an address change — they should immediately contact Social Security, and then the West Virginia State Police.
“Make sure you read it,” Haynes said of any letters received from Social Security. “It is a good thing they are sending out these letters to verify (address changes).”
Haynes said addresses and other information can be changed online at the Social Security website. However, in order to do so, scammers must have access to a victim’s personal information. Officials are still investigating how the scammer or scammers gained access to the woman’s personal information. Haynes said area residents are reminded to safeguard their personal information — and to never give out information such as their Social Security number, credit card number or banking account — to individuals or companies that they are not familiar with who may contact them by phone, mail or online.
“Always safeguard your personal information,” Haynes said.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org