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Social Security scams to watch out for

BusinessPersonal FinanceSocial Security scams to watch out for
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If scams are a numbers game, there can hardly be a better racket than calling people up and telling them that something is wrong with them. social Security,

Almost everyone in the United States has a Social Security number. One in five of them receives a monthly check from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2022, the Federal Trade Commission received 27,054 reports of SSA impostors, with dollar losses from these scams exceeding $75.7 million.

We’ve analyzed the four most common Social Security scams so you can spot them and protect yourself and your loved ones.

1. Threat of arrest

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According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the most common Social Security scam involves someone posing as a police officer or official and threatening to arrest the victim.

The BBB warns, “Posing as law enforcement, the scammer calls and threatens immediate arrest if they do not comply with the scammer’s requests.” “The scammer may claim that the victim’s Social Security number has been compromised and used in a crime.”

In September 2021, an SSA impersonator approached a woman in Alaska, claiming her name was tied to an arrest warrant issued in Texas. Another scammer, pretending to be a law enforcement officer, informed the woman that she would be given a new Social Security number to protect her identity. The scammer said that the government would confiscate the woman’s property.

The woman was then instructed to convert her money into government bonds. To buy the bonds, he has to buy gift cards. The woman was warned not to tell anyone about the situation.

The scammers sent him pictures of gift cards and pin numbers with the name ‘U.S. Department of Treasure’, and officers would meet with her to cancel the arrest warrant and give her a new social security number.

The woman eventually suspected she was being scammed, but only after she lost $4,200 making a gift card purchase.

Scam-Fighting Tips

The SSA will never call you and threaten to arrest you. They definitely won’t ask you to pay any penalty in gift cards.

This may sound obvious, but scammers are very clever and can pretend to be legitimate. They may already have basic personal information like your name, phone number, and address, but this kind of data is easy for anyone to find online. This does not mean that your identity has been stolen.

Never confirm any personal information over the phone, and it’s best to hang up the phone as soon as you realize you’re dealing with a scammer. Shaming them before hanging up is optional, and it might even make you feel better.

2. Demand for Personal Information

Scammers are always looking for personal information like your Social Security number through any means available from mail and phone calls to text messages, emails and social media.

A common scam is when someone posing as an SSA employee calls you to ask for your Social Security number and other personal data.

When you call the Social Security Administration, they will ask for your Social Security number to identify you. When Social Security calls you – which happens very rarely for very specific reasons – they already have your information and you’ll never need to tell them your Social Security number.

In addition to phone calls, a scammer may send you a legitimate-looking email purporting to be from the SSA. You may be directed to a website that looks official to update your information, including your Social Security number. Always verify you’re on a website ending in .gov when you’re trying to work with a federal agency.

In these situations, scammers just want your Social Security number and other information to commit identity theft and other crimes.

Michigan’s Attorney General warns, “Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you.”

Scam-Fighting Tips

Be aware of several tactics employed by Social Security phone scammers:

  • Scammers may use legitimate names and phone numbers of SSA or SSA Office of Inspector General employees. Do not rely on the name or caller ID to verify that the caller is in fact a government employee. Many scam calls spoof real government phone numbers.
  • Scammers may send official-looking letters or reports by mail, email, text or social media in an attempt to prove they are legitimate government employees. Letters from the SSA can appear to contain an official letterhead and government jargon — and are littered with misspellings and typos.

Keep in mind that the SSA usually only calls people who have recently applied for or are already receiving Social Security benefits, or people whose records need to be updated or who have contacted the agency. Told them to call. Apart from these cases, the agency will not call you.

In addition, the SSA will never send emails asking for your personal information, such as your Social Security number. If you receive such a request, do not click on links or type in your personal information.

The agency says it sends email or text messages only when you have opted in to receive them, and only under certain circumstances. Either when you’ve subscribed to Social Security Updates, or your identity is being verified for your online Social Security account.

“We may email or text you about programs and services,” the SSA writes on its scam alert site, “but we will never call an unknown number or ask for personal information.”

3. Social Security Number Suspension Alert

Some savvy scammers intimidate people by threatening to suspend their Social Security numbers. They may claim that you have been a victim of identity theft, that you have been involved in illegal activity, or have other problems with your Social Security number, account, or benefits.

Here are the facts: A Social Security number cannot be suspended. These scams are more attempts to steal your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to commit identity fraud and other crimes.

“In this difference [an imposter] scheme, the caller pretends to protect you from a scam while he is trying to lure you into one,” the FTC says.

Scam-Fighting Tips

The Social Security Administration will send you a letter—but will not initiate a phone call—if there is a problem with your Social Security number.

Typically, the agency will contact you by phone only if you have asked to be called or if you have a pending Social Security case.

The FTC advises, “Never give or confirm personal information over the phone, via email, or on a website unless you can verify that someone is asking you for it.”

4. Request for Money

Someone posing as an SSA employee may try to defraud you by requesting payment with a gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer or cash.

For example, a fraudulent employee may promise to increase your benefits in exchange for compensation. or a scammer may ask a potential victim to buy gift card To avoid arrest or cut off their benefits.

The FTC says that from January 2018 to September 2021, a quarter (26.6%) of fraud victims who reported losing money happened when they were tricked into providing the number on the back of a gift card or reloadable card. Gift cards from Target, Google Play, Apple, eBay and Walmart are among the most commonly requested by scammers.

According to the FTC, from January 2021 to September 2021, more than 12,200 people reported losing $35.5 million to fraudsters through gift card scams.

“Scammers favor gift cards because they are easier for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers than some other payment options. Scammers can get quick cash, transactions can be very extent irreversible, and they can remain anonymous,” warned consumer financial protection bureau (CFPB).

Scam-Fighting Tips

The CFPB says you should never pay government fees or fines with a gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer or cash. “Scammers ask for payment like this because it is difficult to trace and recover,” says the CFPB.

While it is possible to give money to the SSA, it is only in situations where you received benefits you were not eligible for, or received more than you expected. If you owe money to the SSA, they will send you a letter in the mail detailing payment options, none of which include gift cards.

Scam Insights from a Former SSA Employee

Forbes Consulting Editor Rae Hartley Beck worked for the Social Security Administration for nearly six years as a claims specialist, receiving nine performance awards in that time frame. Here’s his insight on Social Security scams.

While Social Security does call without notice to follow up on recent applications or conduct periodic Supplemental Security Income (SSI) reviews, they don’t just call random people.

If you haven’t applied for benefits recently, ignored an SSI review notice, or sent anything that would require a callback, Social Security won’t call you. It is not possible for your Social Security number to be used for a crime or to be suspended. Social Security will never ask for payment over the phone and will never accept payment in the form of gift cards.

When in doubt, you can always check for recent letters or activity in your My Social Security account at SSA.gov. Setting up your own account can prevent others from accessing it and protect your identity and future benefits.

If you’re concerned that your Social Security number or personal information may have been compromised, you can freeze your credit for free with three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Changing your Social Security number provides significant evidence that the damage is already done and is not recommended, as your old number and new number are still linked for the rest of your life.

If you believe you have been defrauded by a Social Security scammer, call the SSA’s Office of Inspector General at 800-269-0271 or file a complaint with the FTC.

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The views and opinions expressed here are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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