NIAGARA FALLS — It was the foreign accent that first caused Marion Wilos to put her guard up.
Then when the caller said he was with the Social Security Administration, the Falls woman knew "something was fishy."
She'd been targeted by a scam artist looking to gather as much of her confidential personal information as possible.
"Early this morning I got a call and they said they were the Social Security Administration," Wilos said Friday evening. "But I know Social Security doesn't ever call you."
Wilos said she's familiar with the federal agency because of a case involving her son. One of the reasons she said she answered the call was because she thought it might be related to that matter. But it wasn't.
"So (the caller) tells me there's an (arrest) warrant for me in Texas for dealing drugs and running a drug house and it's affixed to my Social Security number," Wilos said. "And I'm listening and thinking, 'Who the heck are you?' "
Taking note of the caller's foreign accent, Wilos stayed on the phone when he told her he would stay on the call and transfer her to a Niagara Falls police investigator. When the call transferred, Wilos was surprised that the Falls police representative also had a foreign accent.
"I have a few friends on (the Falls) police department," WIlos said. "And I know there are no foreign-sounding guys in the (Falls) police department."
Wilos asked to speak to a police department supervisor. When the alleged NFPD investigator said he'd have to "find one," Wilos said she wanted to speak to Captain (Bryan) DalPorto.
"I asked for him because he was the only person whose name I could remember," Wilos said with a laugh. "And as soon as I said his name everyone who was on the line hung up."
What Wilos didn't know is the former police superintendent had recently received a similar call.
"I got one of those calls the other day," DalPorto said. "I try to keep (the callers) on the line for as long as I can cause I figure if they're talking to me they can't scam anyone else. I'm glad I foiled a scam (targeting Wilos)."
Like DalPorto, Wilos said she recognized the scam quickly and wanted to make sure others weren't victimized.
"I knew it was a scam,' Wilos said. "But I worry about other people who might not recognize it. I'm fearful for (seniors) who don't realize there are scammers out there."
Falls Police Criminal Investigation Division detectives said they've received a number of complaints about this particular "Social Security scam" and are also warning people to be aware.
"People should use common sense and guard against providing anyone with their personal information over the phone or on-line," Detective Lt. John Conti said. "This happens more often than people realize."