TULARE, Calif. (KGPE) – A social security scam has hit Central Valley mailboxes.

It starts with a letter asking you to call the Social Security Administration, directing your call straight to an alleged scammer.

A Tulare man had just applied for his retirement when three days later, he received a notice in the mail from what seemed to be the Social Security Administration.

The timing of its arrival made it so believable yet it turned out to be from an alleged scammer.

Paul Niemera of Tulare is just beginning his retirement years and it’s started off in the scariest way possible.

His retirement was threatened by an alleged scammer.

“I seemed to have fallen into a scam,” Niemera said. “They were after my information, and this is my only source of income for my future, so this is very important to me.”

Niemera had applied for his retirement benefits online with the Social Security Administration.

A screenshot of a confirmation email shows a legitimate email for an “@ssa.gov” email address.

They tell Niemera, “We will contact you by telephone or by mail with any updates or questions we may have about your information.”

Another automatic message read, “You will get your activation code at the address you gave us within 5-10 business days.”

Three days later, a letter shows up at Niemera’s address.

The letter is signed ‘Social Security Administration.’

“That’s a horrible red flag, it’s not even a signature, it looks rubberstamped on there,” Blair Looney, President of Central California Better Business Bureau.

We sent a copy of Niemera’s letter to the local BBB.

“This particular piece happens to be in a manila envelope with a window in it, that’s very substandard for any government communication,” Looney said.

But having been told to expect something in the mail from Social Security, Niemera wasn’t looking for red flags that indicate a scam.

Niemera called the number on the letter.

“They started talking about everything like family, weather, things like that,” Niemera said.

Then the call progressed asking Niemera to confirm personal information including social security number and birth date.

“I gave them some information and that’s where I started getting scared after the event,” Niemera said.

Niemera’s friend overheard the phone conversation and started to suspect something wasn’t right.

“They were trying to get my card and where the money was going to be placed into, so they were trying to get the bank,” Niemera said.

“I took the phone and I hung it up and said no, it’s a scam,” Christine Harrison said.

Niemera feared the worst. What if his retirement was now at risk?

“I just didn’t think it would happen to us, and it felt pretty bad,” Harrison said. “Paul was crying, he was shaking, he was like what are these people going to do.”

A few days passed and Paul received the letter he was waiting for from the actual Social Security Administration.

“Anywhere there is money coming through in any fashion, they are going to go after it,” Niemera said. “The thievery has just grown to that level.”

If you’re not sure if a call or piece of mail is from social security, call 1-800-772-1213 or report scams to the Office of the Inspector General through its website.

The Better Business Bureau is also available to help with your questions if you feel you have been scammed.

“Protect your money, your retirement, disability, you worked hard for it,” Harrison said. “Don’t let anybody take it. This is people’s livelihoods they’re messing with.”