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Critter Corner: Social Security Scams Are Linked to New Higher COLA

Dear Angel,

It’s 2023, and with the new year comes a new higher cost-of-living adjustment. I can’t say that I am not excited about that. Unfortunately, I heard that there are some scammers out there trying to get their hands on the bit of extra money seniors will be receiving each month. Have you heard of any COLA scams, and can you tell us how we can protect ourselves?

Thanks for your help!

Cole Ascams

Dear Cole,

Happy New Year! You are correct that for Social Security recipients, the new year brings a new cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 8.7 percent, the highest in more than 40 years! Average Social Security payments will increase by $146 per month!

Sadly, you are correct that scammers are already hard at work trying to get a piece of all that money. Some of the common scams involve criminals trying to impersonate Social Security Administration staff in robocalls, text messages, emails, and other communications. Many of the scams involve telling victims they must pay a fee or provide personal or financial data to get the higher payment.

Messages Sent to Victims

According to A.J. Monaco, special agent in charge of the major case unit at the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, “(w)e’ve seen actual letters sent to prospective victims, as well as text messages, emails and even a fake website, all targeting beneficiaries expecting a COLA increase.”

These messages are a red flag, as the SSA states on its website; the agency will only send emails or text messages if you have opted to receive them, and only in limited situations, such as when you have subscribed with Social Security to receive updates and notifications by text or email or as part of their enhanced security when you are accessing your account. The SSA might also email or text you about programs and services, but it will never ask for a return call to an unknown number or request personal information.

The SSA recommends taking a screenshot or photo of any fraudulent website, social media post, email, or text messages you receive and hold onto any physical mail for at least 30 days after reporting the scam.

Information Requests to Activate the COLA

Many scammers try to trick Social Security beneficiaries into providing personal and financial information as a way of activating the COLA increase. This is unnecessary, as the COLA increase happens automatically. If you receive communications asking for your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or other sensitive information, don’t respond to them.

Threat of Lost Benefits

This scam mainly involves false claims from phony Social Security officials telling victims they face the threat of lost benefits, seized assets, or even arrest due to misuse of their Social Security numbers.

The COLA angle emerged in late 2021, after the SSA announced a huge 5.9 percent adjustment for the following year. With the 2023 COLA even higher at 8.7 percent, SSA is saying that even more scammers will emerge.

Mass Robocalls

This scam involves blasting robocalls out to area codes with older populations and using caller ID spoofs to make the calls appear to be of local origin or from government entities, in an effort to get personal information. With the high 2023 COLA, it is predicted that even more scammers will be using robocalls to contact potential victims.

If you get a call that appears to be from Social Security, it’s probably a scam because Social Security will almost never just call you out of the blue. If you’ve been targeted by a Social Security scam, you can report it to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission.

Hope this is helpful. For more articles on scams and how to protect yourself, please click here for many more helpful articles from the Farr Law Firm blog.

Angel

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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