ARKPORT — Area residents are advising The Spectator that a new telephone scam is ringing their phones off the hook.

This week, Arkport resident Virginia Bates had enough.

"I'd hate to see someone else fall for it," she said.

Claiming to be representing the Social Security Administration, the caller urgently exclaims that the subject's Social Security account is in need of "desperate attention" and that they are "in jeopardy of losing their Social Security benefits."

Before hanging up, call recipients are told to call them back at 269-326-4580. The number is registered in the area of Battle Creek, Mich. While there is a Social Security office in the city, the phone number is not listed under the SSA directory.

According to Bates, the caller, a man, clearly spoke American English as a first language. His name was supposedly officer Dale Stone — an apparent spin-off of the name of Acting Inspector General of Social Security Gale Stallworth Stone.

A search of the number turned up several other fed up people who received the call as well.

"Actions on my social; message is a hoot; official sounding clear English in a message clearly not written by someone to whom English is their primary tongue. Called back since I have time to mess around and the guy couldn’t even say Social Security clearly," said one dissatisfied recipient, posting their complaint to 800notes.com.  

Others have reported getting the call from a foreign sounding caller.

"I know it's a scam, and I usually just hang up, but after getting 10 of them, I realize that there's a whole lot of older folks who might freak out," Bates said.

Bates had also reached out to the Steuben County Office for the Aging, in hopes that they might alert seniors to the ongoing scam.

The phone scam, dating back to at least 2017, is so rampant across the country that the Social Security Office of the Inspector General — charged with investigating such fraud — issued a public advisory in January of this year.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which receives and analyzes public complaints related to identity theft, reported that the schemes involve a caller identifying as an SSA employee and claiming an issue exists with the citizen’s online account; the caller claims the citizen can resolve the issue either over the phone or through an imposter SSA website.

"In each case, the caller reportedly uses a fake name and government affiliation and tries to obtain a citizen’s personal information or money," the advisory stated.

If a person receives a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, citizens may report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online at www.oig.ssa.gov/report.

If a person has questions about any communication — email, letter, text or phone call — that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy. Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.