Beware of the “Social Security Imposter” Scam
Phone scams involving callers who claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service have been a problem for several years. However, scammers are using a new tactic this year, one that involves both live calls and robocalls purportedly from the Social Security Administration. The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 76,000 reports about this scam in the past 12 months, with losses averaging $1,500 per victim.
Phone Scams Claiming to be From Social Security
In one version of the scam, the caller claims to be from the Social Security Administration and informs the intended victim that his or her Social Security number has been suspended because it was stolen or was used in a crime. The initial call may automated, with the message telling the recipient to “press one” to speak with a support representative, who will then claim to be able to reactivate the victim’s Social Security number.
In another variation, the caller tells the intended victim that he or she qualifies for an increase in benefits and simply needs to provide some personal information to receive the additional benefits. Once this information is obtained, the scammers can use it to steal the victim’s identity or access bank accounts.
How Do Phone Scams Work?
Given the number of data breaches that have taken place over the years, it’s possible that scammers may actually have some personal information about you, perhaps even your Social Security number. If they do, they’ll use it to appear legitimate and get you to trust them. Then the scammer will typically request immediate payment to “unlock or unfreeze” your Social Security number. The scammer will also probably tell you to use an atypical method of payment, such as a gift card or a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
How To Avoid Becoming a Phone Scam Victim
Here’s what you need to know to avoid being victimized by this scam:
- First and foremost, remember that the SSA will not suspend, lock, or freeze your Social Security number, nor will it demand immediate payment for anything.
- Scammers can make it seem like the Social Security Administration is actually calling you, and the SSA’s real phone number might well appear on your caller ID. If you get an unexpected call from Social Security, do not answer it. Rather, call the SSA’s customer service number (800-772-1213) to see if the SSA was indeed attempting to contact you.
- Never provide personal information to an unknown caller, particularly your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers. If you have already done so, go to IdentityTheft.gov/SSA to learn how to protect your identity and credit.
If you have been targeted, you can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint.
Guidance and Care From An Experienced Elder Law Attorney
Clifford M. Cohen has more than 35 years of experience and dedicates his practice to guiding aging individuals in the Maryland and D.C. area through all facets of elder law care. Contact us today at 202-895-2799 for a free case evaluation.