State police are cautioning people to be wary of a social security scam that has cheated two Lawrence County residents out of thousands of dollars.

The latest report is out of North Beaver Township, where a 71-year-old woman was taken for $4,900 after getting a phone call from someone pretending to be from the Social Security Administration.

The caller told the woman that her social security number had been compromised and that vehicles had been purchased, and international wire transfers had been made in her name associated with money laundering and drug dealing.

The caller told the victim that to resolve the issue and avoid arrest, the woman needed to buy $4,900 worth of gift cards and give the card numbers to the caller.

The woman purchased two Sam's Club gift cards worth $2,000 each, and two Walmart gift cards valued at $450 each, then gave the numbers to the caller.

On the same day, a 40-year-old Wayne Township man told police he also got a call from someone claiming to be from social security.

This victim was also told that his social security number was compromised, and several accounts associated with money laundering and drug trafficking had been opened in his name.

At the caller's request, the man purchased six eBay gift cards worth a total of $1,010 and gave the caller the numbers so he could “avoid being arrested.”

How to protect yourself

Government investigators say in many cases, a caller says your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime.

Sometimes, the scammer wants you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Sometimes, he says your bank account is about to be seized – but if you go put your money on gift cards and then give him the codes, SSA can help keep it safe. (Of course, you never want to do that, because then your money is just gone.)

To report this scam, go to ftc.gov/complaint. But if you already gave one of these callers your SSN and you're worried about identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov/ssa.

If you get one of these calls, remember:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. Your bank account is not about to be seized.
  • The real SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards.
  • You can’t believe the numbers on your caller ID. Scammers can easily fake those. But if you’re worried, call the real SSA at 1-800-772-1213. You can trust that number if you dial it yourself – just not on your caller ID.
  • Never give your SSN, credit card, or bank account number to anyone who contacts you. Ever.