JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Charles Griffin runs a private investigation agency, but before that, he was a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office chasing scammers.

"I was in the burglary, grand theft, schemes to defraud people unit," Griffin said.

This week Griffin became a target of the scams he fought. He received a phone call about his social security card. 

"It said this is the Social Security Administration and we have suspended your social security cards and benefits because of suspicious activity on your social security number," he said.

Griffin said his police training kicked in. Could this be an old phishing scam with a new twist? 

"A lot of people are falling for it, they get scared because it is kind of startling," he said. "They didn't know who they were dealing with when they contacted me."

Griffin said the tone of the caller's voice, the urgency, and the threats that followed all said scam to him.

The private investigator said if he was another person it would have been convincing because it sounded legitimate.

Griffin said he ignored the call but traced the phone numbers

"They called me on five different numbers and all numbers traced to the country of Japan," he said.

They were unknown 800 numbers; he reported it to the FTC and is now warning others about this 'Phishing' scam.

"The message is: be vigilant when it comes to giving out your personal information," Griffin said. "And the elderly people seem to be the target."

The Social Security Administration reports an increase in these scams misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for social security problems.

The SSA has posted the following information on its web page.

Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.  Social Security employees also will not:

  • Tell people that their Social Security number has been suspended
  • Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information
  • Contact people to demand immediate payment
  • Ask people for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
  • Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card or gift card
  • Demand that people pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe

Be cautious about providing personal information to someone who calls you and asks for:

  • Cash
  • Retail gift cards
  • Prepaid debit cards
  • Wire transfers

Never provide payment to callers over the phone.  

  • If you receive a suspicious call or are unsure of the identity of someone alleging to be from Social Security. Hang up
  • Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards
  • Report details of the call to our Office of the Inspector General