MILWAUKEE — The owner of Milwaukee's Heaven's Table BBQ, Jason Alston, has a lot to stay on top of when it comes to running his restaurant. There are orders to fill and employees to pay. So, when he recently got a suspicious voice message, it got his attention.
"I got an automated voice message telling me I needed to comply otherwise I would be facing court charges," Alston said.
The call came from a Milwaukee area code. He was curious and called back and says a man answered claiming to be with the Social Security Administration.
"I'm like, okay, what happened? And he's like, somebody opened up 15 to 20 different banking accounts in Texas under my name and they had been wiring money to El Paso."
Alston says the story was elaborate and it centered around how Alston was a victim of fraud.
"He's like, well how much is in each account in your bank? And I'm like why do you want to know that? He's like we just want to make sure we don't take your money and involve it with what's going on with the people who may be frauding you."
Alston says he started to see more holes in the story when the caller said the local sheriff would be in touch.
"The guy that called me was actually saying he was from District 4 police. And I'm like wait a minute, sheriff's don't have districts here."
Alston also knows Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas personally.
"I'm like wait a minute, I've served you guys lunch before. I said, how about I come down there and talk to you? And we can try to figure this out. And he's like well if you come down here, I got to arrest you. I'm like why would you arrest me if I'm not guilty of anything?"
"It became more and more, each person that spoke became more and more aggressive," Alston said.
"So, it was the social security guy at first, then the sheriff, then they connected me back to some chief social security guy."
When Alston couldn't get a hold of Sheriff Lucas on the phone, he called Milwaukee Judge Derek Mosley, who he also knows well. Alston says Judge Mosley confirmed his instinct that this was all fake.
"They use these scare tactics to make you feel as if it really could happen," said Lisa Schiller with the Better Business Bureau.
Schiller says these imposter schemes are common where often the caller poses as a government agency.
"Social Security is one of those well-known government agencies that everybody knows. So the name is still being used but the tactic of the scam changes," she said.
"As soon as people become aware of a particular scam and how it works, they change up the tactic a little bit."
Just last year, the Social Security Administration received more than half a million complaints of these Social Security imposter attempts where people lost a total of nearly $64 million.
The BBB stresses that the Social Security Administration is never going to call you and threaten you or tell you to send money.
In Alston's case, the callers asked him to put all of his money in a new account, all to clear his name from what they told him was fraudulent activity in Texas.
He didn't do it, but they had him in a panic for a while.
If you believe you were the victim of a Social Security Administration imposter scheme, you can report it here.
Learn more about how to spot this type of scam here.