Scams never go away. 2020 added Covid Scams but the theft of Social Security information is always with us. In 2019 there were more than 450,000 complaints about fraudulent attempts to obtain personal information and steal Social Security benefits.
Representing Social Security Disability clients for many years, we are all too familiar with the scams our clients have dealt with. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim:
You may get a phone call from a fake Social Security agent attempting to gain access to your social security number and retirement or disability benefits information. Using robocalls or live callers, the caller may claim to be a government employee. These callers might tell you that there was an attempt to steal your identity, Social Security number, account, or benefits. They may threaten you with arrest or other legal action or offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They sometimes demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency such as Bitcoin, or pre-paid debit card to “resolve the problem”.
Telephone scammers may follow-up and send faked documents by email or mail to convince you that they are genuine and to try to intimidate you to comply with their demands.
The imposter may send you an email that instructs you to click a link to register for a free service that protects you from Social Security fraud. The letters may use official letterhead or legitimate-looking seals to convince victims that they are legitimate.
WARNING SIGNS OF FRAUD:
- You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for SSA. Except in rare circumstances, you will not get a call from Social Security unless you have already been in contact with the agency.
- The caller asks for your Social Security number — again, something an actual SSA employee would not do.
- A call or email threatens consequences, such as arrest, loss of benefits or suspension of your Social Security number, if you do not provide payment or personal information.
SOCIAL SECURITY WILL NEVER:
- Call you and ask for your Social Security number on the phone.
- Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
- Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
- Require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card.
- Send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.
- Offer to increase your benefits due to Covid-19.
If you receive a call or email that you believe to be suspicious about a “problem” with your Social Security number or account, hang up or do not respond. You can call Social Security’s customer service line at 800-772-1213 or Social Security’s Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.
Report allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse concerning SSA programs and operations to Social Security at https://oig.ssa.gov.
Be suspicious and stay safe!