Scam Alert: Don’t Get Caught in a Social Security Scam

Social Security scams are already very common, and they’re on the rise. Unfortunately, many of the older adults who receive Social Security benefits can be overly trusting and vulnerable to scams like these. However, with some crucial information and knowledge of how these scams work, you can protect yourself and Social Security beneficiaries you know from these predatory schemes. 

How the scams play out

In a Social Security scam, a target receives a phone call from an alleged Social Security employee informing them their benefits have been suspended and must be reactivated. To do this, the target must share their personal information with the caller alleging to be an employee. Alternatively, they are told they must pay a fee to have their account reactivated.

In another variation, the target receives an automated voice message allegedly from the Social Security Administration (SSA) instructing them to call a specific number to reactivate their “suspended” benefits. If the target follows through and calls the number, they’ll be asked to share personal information, or pay a fee to continue receiving their benefits.

The scam is sometimes pulled off through an email message containing an embedded link. The scam then follows the same script as the scenarios depicted above, ending in the victim being asked to share their personal information or pay a fee.

Of course, the end of the story is the same in each unfortunate version of the scam: The victim shares their money and/or their personal information with scammers. In doing so, they pad the scammers’ pockets or give scammers access to their financial accounts. 

Protect yourself

The SSA cautions Social Security beneficiaries to be wary of phone calls claiming to represent their organization. Additionally, the SSA will never:

  • Ask you to share a complete Social Security number over the phone.
  • Demand immediate payment in the form of gift card, prepaid gift card, wire transfer, cryptocurrency or cash sent through the U.S. postal system. The SSA only accepts payments electronically through Pay.gov, Online Bill Pay or physically by check or money order at its offices. 
  • Threaten a beneficiary with arrest or legal action for not paying immediately.
  • Suspend a Social Security number.

                  In addition, if there is an issue with someone’s account, the SSA will notify them through the mail. They will only send emails or text messages to someone if they’ve signed up for them, and only in limited situations.

If you’re targeted

If you believe you’re being targeted by a Social Security scam, hang up on the caller and report the scam to oig.ssa.gov. You can also call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to ask if there is actually a problem with your benefits. If you’re only being scammed, the SSA will be better equipped to stop the scammers. You can also fill out a Public Fraud Reporting form at socialsecurity.gov.

If you receive a suspicious email about your Social Security benefits, mark it as spam and do not respond. It’s also a good idea to block any numbers that continuously send scammy text messages to your phone.

As a rule, never agree to wire money to an unverified contact over the phone or online. Additionally, it’s best not to share personal information over the phone or the internet. If you must contact the SSA for whatever reason and need to share personal information, be sure to verify you are interacting with the party you believe you’ve reached. The best way to do so is by contacting the SSA on your own at 1-800-772-1213. 

Finally, be sure to let your friends and family know about the scam so they can be aware and protect themselves from falling victim.

Social Security is one of the hallmarks of our democracy, and scammers want to tear apart this institute while stealing the monetary benefits of some of the most vulnerable members of society. Use the tips outlined here to help ensure they don’t succeed.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a Social Security scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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