What to do if you are a victim of a Social Security fraud
Every year thousands of people are contacted by scammers trying to get personal information to steal their hard-earned money or outright shake them down.
Scammers are always on the prowl, looking for ways to take your hard-earned money. They use a number of methods to try to trick you into giving away personal information that will give them the ability to steal from you or outright shake you down.
Having knowledge of their tactics can help prevent them from taking advantage of you. As the Social Security Administration says, “People who know about scams are much less likely to fall victim to them.” Here’s a look at some of the approaches these unscrupulous criminals use and how you can fight back and help stop scammers from hurting other people.
Never give out personal information
It doesn’t matter who is calling you, but it should go without saying that you should never give away personal information, especially not your Social Security number. The Social Security Administration will never call, text or email someone except if you have requested it, and then only in limited situations. Generally, the agency will only ever contact you by letter if you have ongoing business with the agency.
The Social Security Administration will not threaten or demand something in exchange for money
Social Security Administration staff “will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.” Likewise, employees will never say that they will suspend your Social Security number or demand immediate payment. Agency staff will not ask for personal details or banking information to give you a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Scammers ask for alternate forms of payment
Anyone, no matter if it is the Social Security Administration or any other government agency, who asks for payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer to settle an outstanding debt, if there really is one, is scamming you.
If you do owe money to the Social Security Administration, or the IRS, they will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights. Payments are only accepted electronically through Pay.gov or Online Bill Pay and physically by check or money order through their offices.
Social Security scams to watch out for
Scams between January and March of 2022 are down dramatically from the year before, 91 percent less. However, there were still over 15,000 reported cases in the first three months of the year alone with the most common instance being an imposter claiming there was a problem with a Social Security number. Other examples of attempts to defraud involved saying that there were problems with one’s benefits or mentioning a coronavirus stimulus check.
Also, scammers may claim that they are from another government agency. An old tactic that has been increasing is swindlers emailing and texting pictures of real and doctored law enforcement credentials and badges attempting to prove that they are legitimate, they aren’t.
A word to the wise on how to react to Social Security scams
The Social Security Administration does not proactively seek out victims of identity theft nor contact people regarding problems with their Social Security numbers. If someone calls, emails, texts or sends you mail claiming to be from the agency, do not engage with them or respond. Contact your local Social Security office to double check about the details of what is being asked of you.
Absolutely do not click on links or visit internet address provided in any communication claiming to be from Social Security. Even though it may appear official, scammers have developed tools to make webpages and telephone numbers appear like the real deal, there will most likely be some giveaway that lets you know it is false. Official government websites all end in ‘.gov’.
What to do in the event you are contacted by a scammer
Being a victim of fraud can feel embarrassing, but you should not feel ashamed. If you fall victim to or are even contacted by a scammer you should report it to the Social Security Inspector General by calling the fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or submit a report online.
To prevent falling prey to scammers if you receive a questionable call, hang up, and relay as much information as possible to Social Security. The same goes for situations where you or someone you know has fallen victim to a scam or given away personal information that may give swindlers the ability to steal or use the victim’s identity.
The agency advises not to return unknow phone calls, emails or text messages.