INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis mother-to-be lost more than $5,000 to a government imposter scam.
Angela Hankerson reached out to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney for help in getting her money back, and to inform others about the tricks scammers are using.
Angela got a phone call from the Social Security Administration, saying her social security number had been linked to a crime in Texas.
“They said they have a warrant out for my arrest, and they read out the charges,” said Angela. “Especially with me being an African American, I take all precautions when dealing with the police. Period.”
Angela suspected it was a scam and asked for the caller’s information.
She said her name was Jennifer Walker, who is listed as an Assistant Inspector General for Investigations over the Social Security Administration.
“I Googled her name and it came up, which was another reason it made me believe that it was real,” said Angela.
Angela went to the bank and took out $5,525 for a Bitcoin payment to what she thought was the Social Security Administration.
When they tried to get even more money out of her, Angela knew she’d been scammed.
She’s expecting a baby any day now.
I'm 8 months pregnant,” said Angela. “That was a lot of money I had saved up to finish finalizing my baby shower, putting down my first payment for my car. Finishing up stuff. That was me starting to get on my feet."
What happened to Angela is a government imposter scam, in which the caller pretends to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS or another government agency.
“They are prevalent right now, and they are pretty hot,” said Scott Barnhart, director of Consumer Protection at the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
Barnhart said because of COVID-19, people are having more interactions with the government like the IRS and the unemployment office—and scammers know this.
“They'll say oh we think we have a warrant out for your arrest. Please verify your SS #, your address, your personal information- not providing that information is very important."
"They'll say oh we think we have a warrant out for your arrest, please verify your social security number, your address, your personal information- not providing that information is very important,” said Barnhart. "What we tell folks is slow down. Ask questions. Verify. Don't be afraid to hang up and be impolite and do your own research."
WRTV Investigates tried to reach the scammers who took Angela’s money, but we didn’t have any luck.
The numbers on the caller ID are often spoofed, said Barnhart.
“They're both inside the US and outside of the US, but the important part it is difficult to track them because they're anonymous,” said Barnhart.
WRTV Investigates reached out to the Social Security Administration and the Office of Inspector General.
“Jennifer Walker and other staff from the SSA OIG are not calling people to solicit payments or personally identifiable information from citizens,” said Orlando Diaz, Public Affairs Specialist at the Social Security Administration OIG.
Beware of anyone who texts or emails you a name or badge of a federal worker.
The Social Security Administration tell us they may call you in some situations but will never:
- Threaten you
- Suspend your Social Security number
- Demand immediate payment from you
- Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or mailing cash
- Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment
It’s a costly lesson Angela Hankerson learned the hard way.
"If I can possibly get my money back that would be great,” said Angela. “It probably won't happen. I want people to be aware that people are disgusting."
If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from Social Security, hang up, and then report details of the call to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at https://oig.ssa.gov/ .
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.idtheft.gov [idtheft.gov], or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261,
- File a police report with the police department where the identity theft took place and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the crime,
- Contact the fraud units of the three consumer credit reporting companies.