Scam artists can strike anyone, young or old. New scams are being reported all of the time and are becoming more sophisticated. Social Security scams are well-documented. With millions of people each year receiving benefits, it’s not surprising that these people become victims.
The most common tactic is for a scammer to impersonate someone who works for the Social Security Administration (SSA). The goal of any contact made by a scammer is to obtain and then exploit legitimate Social Security numbers and personal information.
Common Ways Scammers Make Contact
There are several ways in which scammers will try to trick you into giving them your information. Most often, they will reach out to you as if they are a government employee. They may even have some of your information that makes them seem to be more legitimate.
Common ways a scammer will contact you include:
- Phone calls that warn of improper Social Security activity and threaten jail time or fines
- Friendly phone calls trying to sell SSA services
- Phishing emails that appear to be from the SSA
- Fake letters that purport to be from the SSA
At times, it can be difficult to determine what is fake and what is real when it comes to scammers and their artistry. They set out to be deceptive and are quite adept at seeming legitimate.
Ways to Recognize a Scam
There are certain times the Social Security Administration may reach out to you by phone, but telltale signs can let you know when a caller is not with the SSA. When Social Security makes contact, they will never:
- Make any kind of threat to you
- Ask for your Social Security number
- Suspend your Social Security account or number
- Require that you make an immediate payment
- Ask for payment by cash, wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card
Social Security may also contact you by email or text messages to make you aware of certain services. SSA will never ask you to return a phone call to an unknown number.
What to Do if You Suspect You Are on a Fake Call
Social Security scam artists can sound convincing. They can give themselves fake but official-sounding titles, some of which are authentic. Some things to keep in mind if you receive a fake phone call include:
- Be skeptical if someone calls claiming to be from the SSA
- If you feel uneasy, simply hang up the phone
- Call Social Security customer service at 800-772-1213 to ask if someone was trying to reach you
- Do not click on any email links in a purported SSA email
You may not always know when you’re giving information to a scammer. Following the above tips can help you avoid the unintended consequences of sharing your information with someone whose intention is to exploit your identity.
What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed
If you think you have been the victim of a Social Security scam, you should report it immediately. Call the customer service line listed above and they can connect you with the SSA Office of Inspector General Fraud. You can also report the scam at oig.ssa.gov.
Other steps to take include:
- Set up credit monitoring — banks sometimes provide this service for free
- Place a credit freeze on your account with the all credit reporting agencies
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report — this requires businesses to contact you if someone tries to open an account
- Contact a Social Security attorney