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Scammer tells North Dakota father his Marine son is dead

A North Dakota man unwittingly gave his social security number to someone who called and told him his son, who is in the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed during a live fire accident.
John Stautz picked up the phone recently and was told his Marine son was dead. As it turns out, it was part of a scam to get his Social Security number. (KVLY TV)

FARGO, N.D. (KVLY/KARE) — Even as far as scam artists go, this is the lowest of the low.

A Fargo man unwittingly gave his social security number to someone who called and told him his son, who is in the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed during a live fire accident. The man on the other line said he needed John Stautz's information so they could verify whether the dead marine was actually his son.

It all seemed to line up for Stautz. His son is a Marine on active duty, he knows the risks, and the caller seemed legitimate.

"They wanted to know when and where I wanted him buried and how soon and then they would call me back," Stautz told KARE news partner KVLY.

Stautz called his wife to deliver the devastating news, but then began feeling uneasy, like something wasn't right about the call, or the message.

"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," says Stautz.

The Fargo man started working the phones, and soon learned from his daughter that his son was alive and well. He obviously breathed a sigh of relief, but realized he had been suckered.

Believe it or not, the phone call Stautz got isn't that uncommon. Bess Ellenson with the Better Business Bureau says they always hear about scammers saying whatever they can to try and 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," Better Business Bureau of Minnesota & North Dakota spokesperson Bess Ellenson told KVLY.

After his startling experience, John Stautz is speaking out with words of advice. He says 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," says Stautz.

The BBB's Ellenson emphasizes that 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.