FARGO, N.D. (KVLY/Gray News) - It’s a devastating phone call that no parent ever wants to get.
A Fargo father was told his son, a Marine, was killed while on active duty. The call seemed legitimate until they asked for his Social Security number.
"They wanted to know when and where I wanted him buried and how soon and then they would call me back," said John Stautz.
It's a phone call that he will never forget. The call was from a private number telling him his son is dead.
“He said he was from the U.S. Marine Corps and that my son had been killed in live-fire practice," Stautz said.
His son is a Marine, and that's what made all of this seem so real. So he called his wife to tell her the devastating news.
"It took a little while to call my wife and tell her about it. I didn't know what to say and do. I was just in awe," Stautz said.
But while Stautz was still trying to grasp what he just heard, things weren’t adding up in his head. The caller asked for his Social Security number so they could verify it was his son. Thinking this was all real, Stautz gave it over to him.
"I started thinking this is kind of odd because I’ve seen it where the military comes to your door, not call you on the phone," Stautz said.
After his wife started calling family to tell them what they just heard, there was a massive sigh of relief.
"My oldest brother got a hold of my daughter, who just happened to say, 'No, he's just fine,'" Stautz said.
Believe it or not, the phone call Stautz got isn't that uncommon. Bess Ellenson with the Better Business Bureau said they always hear about scammers saying whatever they can to get your personal information.
"Unfortunately, these scams tend to work because the scammer on the other side ends up instilling fear in the person that they're calling," Ellenson said.
As for Stautz, he took action after giving out his Social Security number, and after this startling experience, he has some words of advice.
He said to double-check any phone call you get from a number you don’t know, no matter how believable it is.
"Somebody with a really bad thought, twisted thought would have to do this, and that's a shame it happens to anybody," Stautz said.
Ellenson said the best way to avoid these calls is to not answer any number that you don’t know.
On top of that, if you do happen to give your Social Security number to the wrong person, call the Social Security office right away to report it.