Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What to make of this telephone call...

I answered the phone yesterday  at home, and a male person said "Are you the Randy Seaver who is with the Chula Vista Genealogical Society?"  Of course, I admitted to that...  I asked for his name, and he gave me a name, and implied that he worked for a non-government organization that tries to combat identity theft, but would not tell me the name of the organization or his phone number..

Then he said:  "I have been told that a certain person of interest will be attending one of your society meetings in the near future and will inquire how to find dates of birth and Social Security Numbers for a person in order to steal their identity."

This puzzled me, because the places that I know of with Social Security Numbers are indexes of already dead people.  I mean, that's why the Social Security Death Index exists, right?  So that banks, credit card companies and other agencies can determine if the SSN is for a deceased person, and therefore the person presenting it is trying to steal a person's identity.  Then I recalled the income tax form scam recently discussed in Congress, where the SSNs of children were used to claim them as dependents on an income tax form, and it works because the IRS does not cross-check the SSDI with the claimed dependent SSNs.

The fellow gave me the phone number of a Social Security inspector who works on identity theft issues, and asked me to call that person when we are contacted by the person of interest, subject of the call.

He also gave me two names of our society members that had been contacted by the person of interest and may have been asked to help the person of interest.  I emailed my two colleagues, and they say that they have had no contact of this nature.

So now I'm wondering what to make of this phone call.  Is it:

1)  Real - and a person of interest will show up at one of our meetings and ask their question.

2)  Fake - someone is trying to pull my chain and see how much information I will volunteer.

Our next CVGS meeting is the Research Group on Wednesday, 11 July, where we typically answer questions and try to solve research problems for the attendees, whether they are members or not.

If the person of interest does show up and ask for help, I wonder what we should do?  Should we demonstrate how to use the SSDI?  Which version should we use - the free one on FamilySearch.org, or the subscription one on Ancestry?  Should we note the names that the person of interest asked about, and then call the number I was given?

UPDATE 11 July, 3 p.m.:  I called the number given and it was the local Social Security fraud prevention person - right name at the extension.  We had our Research Group today and the "person of interest" did not show up, so we won't do anything about this until the POI shows up.  From what I perceive, the call was a warning and a request to help prevent fraud rather than a scam.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/07/what-to-make-of-this-telephone-call.html

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

If a Social Security inspector (is that really a title) were looking to catch someone who was stealing identities, wouldn't he call you himself? And wouldn't this inspector give you a full name, badge number, contact information? Why through a secret second party person who would not be up front with you?

Andrew Hatchett said...

"and implied that he worked for a non-government organization that tries to combat identity theft, but would not tell me the name of the organization or his phone number.."

Right then and there I'd have told the caller that unless he gave me full info- his name, his organization's name, address, and phone number, and a telephone number where he could be reached after you verified the information he gave you; that the conversation was at an end.

Sharon said...

Sounds stinky to me.

If you have his phone # on your caller-id, you can just Google the phone # and see if anyone else has reported this, or maybe even who this was. Just enter phone number in the format 999-999-9999 in Google.

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Sounds like a call from Fakey McFakester.

Bill West said...

Sounds fishy to me too. In fact, I'd bet the person who shows up and asks the question at the meeting(if he shows up at all)will be the same person on the phone. Maybe you can tell by the voice. It seems like a setup.

QuiltinLibraryLady said...

The person on the phone wouldn't tell you who he worked for and wouldn't give you his phone #? Let him do his own leg work or dirty work or whatever. Reeks of scam.

Unknown said...

Scam. Perhaps a call to the police is in order. Since there is a name and phone number, they may have something on file. Or it could be an investigative reporter as they sometimes fly under the radar.

Laura Marshallsay said...

My husband is a fraud investigator for a major bank. Do not attempt to do anything or verify anything yourself. Using someone else's SSN is call Ghosting and is a federal offense. This is something you need to report to the authorities. Contact the OFiice of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. They take this stuff very seriously. Their website (with hotline number) is http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse.

Geolover said...

There are two essences to the call. One is an accusation, for which you have no evidence, concerning an unknown person's intention to act illegally. Since a question about SSDI does not imply such an intention, you would have no ground for reporting anything to any officialdom.

If your caller is concerned, he can attend a public meeting and do his own reporting if he wishes. It is possible that the caller's actual intention was to target an individual for harassment.

As recent Congressional discussions and actions have indicated, there is a fringe element that wishes to suppress public access to information about Social Security numbers. Despite the fact that removal of public indexes would make it harder for prospective employers to do a quick check on the SSDI.

Some of this fringe element may be trying not to remove the indexes but to make it harder to find out how to consult them. This is the same theory as "if I don't tell my daughter about sex she won't engage in it." In this vein, the aim of the caller may have been to deter your showing how to use SSDI. Since information on how to use SSDI and where to find databases is extremely easy to find, it would make no sense for you to be ill at ease in sharing information.

MHD said...

I never call a phone number I've been given under those circumstances. Instead, I do my own searching for the so-called agency and see what I get. Alternatively, call straight to local authorities.

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