Long Island Man Talked Into Handing Over $1,400 After Caller ID Shows Source As Coming From Federal Government

MELVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Suffolk County police are sounding the alarm on a phone scam known as “spoofing.”

Police say it’s particularly concerning because it looks like you’re getting an official call from the government.

CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge has more on what you need to know to prevent becoming a victim.

When Wayne Chertoff doesn’t recognize a call, he won’t answer. But last week he picked up when he saw what he thought was a familiar number — the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Law enforcement is warning residents about a phone scam known as “spoofing.” Photo: CBS2)

“They began to tell me that people were using my name and Social Security number to send thousands and thousands of dollars to Mexico,” Chertoff said.

The 67-year-old said the female voice on the line told him because his identity was compromised there was a warrant issued for his arrest in Texas, and that his Social Security number would be suspended until he paid to have it reversed.

He didn’t doubt the person on the line because the caller ID showed up as “U.S. Government.”

Police said it’s a new scam called “spoofing.”

“The callers used spoofing software, enabled the calls to appear as if they were coming from a legitimate source,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

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Chertoff said the caller told him to purchase a Google gift card, which he did at a pharmacy in Melville. Using all of the money in his account he bought three separate cards, totaling $1,400.

He then gave them the serial number on the back.

Growing suspicious, he said he called Google to see where the money went and was told it was gone.

“Not only did I find out that I was scammed, now this month I can’t pay my rent,” Chertoff said.

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To protect yourself from being scammed, Suffolk County Police say to be skeptical every time someone contacts you first, asking for personal or financial information.

“If somebody is calling, do not turn money over to them without verifying through another source that they are legitimate,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Chertoff said he doesn’t ever expect to get his money back, but hopes telling his story will make someone else stop and think twice.

Investigators said they’re trying to track down those involved, but added this type of crime is very difficult to trace.