This Clever Scam Cost a Politician’s Family $150,000: Will It Get You Too?

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A woman comforts her upset senior husband
fizkes /

Think you are too smart to fall prey to Social Security scammers? The story of a Utah state representative and his wife may give you pause.

Machel Andersen and her husband, Kyle — who represents Utah’s District 7 — recently lost $150,000 after Machel received calls saying her Social Security number was being used to set up bank accounts associated with a drug cartel.

Someone pretending to be an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told Machel that for her own safety, she needed to transfer all money in the family’s bank accounts to an off-shore account.

The alleged agent then sent Machel what appeared to be a warrant for her arrest on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering

Fearing the worst, Machel transferred money from her checking account and CDs into the off-shore account.

When the “agent” went a step further and asked Machel to take out a new mortgage on the couple’s home, she snapped to her senses.

Machel recently testified about her experience before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. She said in a CBS News report that she hopes her story will help others to avoid a similar fate:

“I was asked by someone, ‘How could you be so stupid?’ But at the time that I was going through it, it was very real.”

Machel’s story is far from unique. The office of Maine Sen. Susan Collins says this Social Security scam has impacted hundreds of thousands of Americans and is growing “at an alarming rate.”

Just a few months ago, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General created an online form for reporting Social Security imposter scams. It has received more than 115,000 complaints thus far.

According to an announcement from Collins’ office:

“In 2019 alone, Americans reported losing close to $38 million to this scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Recently, the scam has skyrocketed to become the most-reported fraud to the FTC and the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1 -855-303-9470).”

Machel Andersen’s story reminds us that scams are an unfortunate part of life. Staying vigilant is the best way to protect yourself.

For more tips on avoiding fraud, check out “10 Common Ways Seniors Get Scammed.”

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