Protect Yourself From Social Security Scams
Scams are as old as time itself, and a particularly popular one involves impersonating the Social Security Administration (SSA). With millions of Americans relying on Social Security at retirement, scammers are trying to “follow the money” by targeting recipients with ever changing methods of trickery. Here are some details about the SSA scam and how you can protect yourself.
How the Social Security Scam Works
You get a call. The caller ID says it’s the Social Security Administration. You dutifully pick up. In this first step of the con, you are usually hit with an automated message from someone who says the Office of the Inspector General or the Social Security Administration has had to suspend your Social Security account, number and benefits. You are then prompted to call a specific number to get further details and to reinstate your account.
If you take the bait and initiate step two by calling the number, you will speak to an impersonator who often will ask you to verify your personal information, making you believe you are talking to an actual SSA employee. They may even refer to your enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug program before asking for your date of birth, social security number and banking information. In other cases, they will tell you a warrant is out for your arrest and to settle the problem you are told to purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards. By instilling the fear of arrest or serious consequences (such as suspension of benefits), even normally reasonable people can be coerced into falling for the scam.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Gone are the days of trusting anyone on the telephone, even if they say they are from the government. It is especially important to be on guard since the SSA Inspector General warns it is possible an SSA employee may call — but only to follow up on something you initiated with the agency, such as a previous application for SSA/Medicare Part D benefits. Here are some clues that a call is fraudulent:
• Remember that just because it’s a 1-800 number does not mean it’s legitimate.
• If you are asked to pay for your new Medicare cards, this is a fraud because cards are always free.
• If you are asked for information so that you can receive a bigger Social Security check each month, it’s a fraud.
• Social Security will never call to threaten to terminate your benefits.
• A call saying computers are down and that you need to verify your information including your social security number is a HUGE RED FLAG. The SSA already has your social security number and won’t be calling to ask for it.
If you receive a suspicious phone call, you should report it to the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security at 800-269-0271 for the Social Security fraud hotline. Or you can make a report online at oid.ssa.gov/report.