MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An elaborate Social Security scam seemed to work to steal tens of thousands of dollars from a Twin Cities woman.

But, her persistence to get it back paid off this week. Now, she’s speaking out in hopes of stepping up the safeguards in place to protect our money.

The messages came a couple of times in mid-July from a so-called officer with the Social Security Administration, who said Carla Parrish’s identity had been stolen.

“I felt like my identity had been compromised. I was trying to comply with government officials,” Parrish said.

After losing her husband unexpectedly a few years earlier, Parrish was paying close attention to the paperwork left behind to care for her girls.

“I’ll connect you to a US Marshal who will walk you through the protocol to protect your identity,” she recalled.

But when Parrish called back, this conversation turned to an elaborate scheme: A detailed report of how a criminal found Parrish’s personal information, and a request for $50,000 from her bank to be able to verify her identity.

“As part of that protocol the money would have to be transferred then transferred back,” Parrish said.

Scammers even provided her phone numbers to check them out first.

“I called and they were able to say ‘Yes, Fernando Sodo has been with the force for 15 years, badge No. 1308,’” Parrish said.

Parrish spent hours on the phone and went through with the wire transfer.  It was her family members that night who waved the red flags.

“The use the scare tactics very effectively unfortunately,” she said.

Her money ended up in Hong Kong. From that police agency to the FBI, Attorney General’s Office and Eagan police, Parrish worked for weeks to find help.

“These crimes are really difficult to investigate,” Officer Aaron Machtemes said.

Jurisdiction becomes an issue, and tracking a phone number is nearly impossible with ever-changing technology.  It’s why police send a preventative message.

“Expect this to eventually happen to you. You will get this call. Or, your loved one will get a call,” Officer Machtemes said.

Amazingly, Parrish got her money back. But, she wants all enforcement agencies to learn from her mistake — and for banks to ask more questions first.

“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” she said.

Parrish said her bank asked a list of questions when she went into make the transfer, but none was about signs of fraud. Eagan police passed on these warning signs:

  • Government agents won’t ask for money over the phone.
  • Be skeptical if there’s urgency or a sense of being in trouble.
  • If you’re ever in doubt, google the agency they say they’re with and ask for the agent that way.
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