Elderly man caught up in Social Security scam fights to get his money back


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An old scam about Social Security numbers has a new twist that left an 83-year-old man asking CBS17 for help.

Criminals told the victim he needed to use gift cards to pay his way out of a legal situation involving his Social Security number.

But, the 83-year-old didn’t give all the gift card information to the scammers leaving him with $2,000 in active gift cards.

Now, he can’t access the money, so he called Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia. 

Back on December 9, a caller told Leroy Barnett he was in big trouble.

“This lady talked to me fast,” he said.

“She said someone has your Social Security information and opened seven accounts in your name. We found a car with blood and drugs and this is what you have to do.” 

He was told to keep the phone line open, get in his car and go buy gift cards.

“I got $500 worth of gift cards from Target,” he said.

As directed by the voice on the phone, he gave the scammer the card numbers on the cards.

That money was instantly lost to the criminal.

He was then told to go to Best Buy, but says that store didn’t have $500 gift cards so the criminals sent him to near-by Food Lion and told him to keep quiet about his purchase.

“He said don’t speak to anyone–relatives or otherwise for security reasons,” said Barnett.

When Barnett returned home with the $2,000 in gift cards he purchased from Food Lion his girlfriend became suspicious and called Knightdale Police.

When an officer arrived at his home, he told the 83-year-old Barnett it was a scam and prevented him from giving the bad guys the numbers on the back of those gift cards worth $2000. 

As a result, the gift cards remained active and in his possession.

But, getting his $2,000 back has been problematic.

“I was on the phone with Best Buy 30-40 minutes,’’ he said. “She said everything was fine and to go to Food Lion. They should give you your money.”

“I told her the manager didn’t want to speak to me about it,” he said.

Several more attempts at that Food Lion store proved fruitless.

He says he went to the supermarket several times.

During one visit he brought his girlfriend.

He said “They took some notes and said we’ll see about it. We’ll call you back,”

He says they haven’t called yet.

“They tried to blow us off,” he claims.

Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia contacted Food Lion Corporate by email and a spokesman responded almost immediately.

Matt Harakal says “They’ll reach out to the appropriate folks and follow up when they have a resolution.”

For Barnett, who is on a fixed income, that $2,000 is crucial because he says he needs it to pay his bills.

Knightdale police told Sbraccia they’re also investigating the theft of the $1,000 in Target Gift cards to see what they can do.

The Social Security scam is one that the government said has reached epidemic proportions.

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