Officials warn about scam after someone posed as upstate police chief

South Carolina News

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate woman is out of $5,000 after being scammed by someone pretending to be the Spartanburg City Police Chief. 

The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, says on Friday she got the call from a number she didn’t recognize. 

“He said he was the officer from SSA (Social Security Administration) and that my social security number was stolen,” the woman told 7News. 

The call quickly went sideways. 

“[The caller also said] that I owe the U.S. Government $10 million,” she said. 

The woman says in addition to identity theft and active warrants out for her arrest, the caller told her cars were purchases in her name, she owed money of several credit cards and all her bank accounts were going to be frozen. 

“So I’m like wait how did my Social Security get stolen? Then I asked how long had this been going on and he goes in the past two months,” she told 7News. 

The caller assured the woman her problems would go away if she followed the Spartanburg Police Chief’s instructions. That’s when she was transferred to someone impersonating Chief Alonzo Thompson, according to detectives. 

The person pretending to be the police chief told the woman she would be sent a new Social Security card in the mail on Saturday. But to prevent getting arrested she needed to send the caller money using gift cards. 

The woman says following orders and scared out of her mind, she went to Walmart and Target and bought $6,900 worth of gift cards. After that, she sent pictures of the gift cards to the caller as instructed. 

“Why is the government making me do this? It just didn’t make sense to me,” she said. 

When the Social Security card didn’t arrive on Saturday morning she went straight to police, filed a report and learned the truth. 

“It turned out to be a scammer,” the woman said. 

The woman was able to recover some of her losses. “I had $1,900 on my Walmart gift card, so the officer tells me here’s a victim form take it straight to Walmart and cash it out.” 

She may never see the other $5,000. She tells 7News she hopes her experience prevents others from falling victim to the same scam. 

“These things happen. Don’t be naive,” she said. 

Detectives say the woman has never been in trouble with the law, but the scammer was very convincing. 

Police urge people to remember no local, state or federal agency would ever ask someone to pay using gift cards. 

Statement from Spartanburg City Police:

If someone offers to pay you money to purchase gift cards, don’t do it. This should be a red flag. Stop immediately. Do not fall for this; it is a scam.

Also, victims may receive phone calls from the IRS or a police department with a threatening message, stating they will be arrested if they do not follow their instructions of purchasing gift cards. Once the gift cards are purchased the caller will ask for all the information on the cards. The caller will then remove all of the money from the gift cards. Victims who fall for this scam will often be called again to purchased additional gift cards.

If you receive a threatening telephone call from the police, or any government agency. Simply hang up the phone and call that agency directly. Do not use the phone number(s) provided by the caller.

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