How can I avoid a social security scam?
Social Security scams are not uncommon, and the tactics fraudsters use to get your information are pretty sophisticated. A representative of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says scammers will call people and say they are from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These fraudsters will then say something like “there is a problem with your Social Security number. Please confirm your Social Security number so we can reactivate it.” They will then ask you to pay a small fee.
This two-part attack is a double whammy when it comes to identity theft because the caller now has your Social Security number and a way to access your money. If you or a loved one was the victim of this type of attack, know that you are not alone. Identity theft was already prolific, but fraudsters increased their efforts during the pandemic. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that identity theft reports from 2020 were more than triple the rates in 2018.
How will the SSA contact me if there is a problem?
The SSA, like other government agencies, may send a letter in the mail to let you know about any potential problems. They could also make a phone call to discuss a problem. Emails and text messages are also possible, but only if you have elected to receive contact in this manner. If not, it is probably not the SSA sending that message. If an email, it is best not to click on any links as they could be part of a phishing scam.
How will I know if the person I am talking to is from the government?
It is important to note that the SSA does not often reach out through a phone call. Any calls made by the SSA are often part of an ongoing communication, not the initial contact. If you do receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be with the SSA listen for these five red flags:
- Make threats. Those who are representing the SSA will not make threats during a phone conversation. Any threat made to suspend your social security number or call the police if you fail to make an immediate payment are big red flags that the person is a scammer, not someone from the government.
- Ask for your Social Security number. This is something that SSA agents will not ask for over the phone.
- Demand payment. As mentioned above, a demand for immediate payment is also not standard procedure.
- Ask for gift cards. The type of payment requested is also a good way to determine who you are dealing with. Representatives for the SSA will not request payment in the form of gift cards, cash, or a wire payment.
- Ask you to call back. Another red flag is when robo-call requests you call back at a given number to discuss suspicious activity connected to your Social Security number. The SSA will not ask you to call them back.
If a phone conversation checks any of these boxes, hang up. It is most likely a fraudster trying to steal your information.