Critter Corner: How to Avoid Being a Victim of a Social Security Scam

Dear Ribbit,

I heard that there has been an upsurge in Social Security scams lately. What are they about and how can I avoid them? 

Thanks!

Lee Vameealone

Dear Lee,

You are correct. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is warning about an upsurge in scams targeting Social Security recipients. In a common scam, someone calls you over the phone claiming to be from the SSA and says your Social Security accounts have been suspended due to suspicion of illegal activity. They may be a real live person or a robocaller. The caller then says that if you fail to resolve the issue by calling back a certain phone number, then your assets will be frozen. The prospect of such a thing is scary for someone who depends on Social Security.

To seem authentic, the callers replicate the D.C. area code. Their goal is to steal your personal information, which can be used to drain your bank and other accounts. Don’t fall for it if you get a call like this! If you’re targeted by one of these calls, take these three steps to protect yourself.

1. Hang up immediately: If you are contacted out of the blue by the SSA, it is in all probability a fraudster. The SSA says it calls Social Security beneficiaries only in response to something the beneficiary has initiated, such as a question or request for help. So if you get an unsolicited call from the SSA, it’s likely not them. Simply hang up the phone. If you are at all unsure and think that it might be a legitimate call, then call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or click here to look up the address for your local office and go in person.

2. Never provide personal information over the telephone to an unknown caller: Don’t give out your personal information over the telephone to someone you don’t know, whether they seem to be threatening action or not. The information is likely to be used in ways that will harm you, not help you. If the caller asks to verify information, or even asks somethings seemingly innocent — such as “can you hear me?” — don’t say “yes.” They may be recording your voice. The word “yes” can then be used out of context – to authorize charges on your bank accounts and credit cards, for example. Just say no and hang up.

3. Report the fraudulent call to the SSA: Finally, you should report the call to the SSA. Scams involving people who claim to be from the SSA are frequent enough that the SSA has a Fraud Hotline. You can reach it at 1-800-269-0271. You can also report fraud online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

Reporting an attempted scam helps the SSA alert the public to both the frequency and the nature of these potential frauds. You’re not only protecting yourself, but also helping protect the public.
Hop this is helpful,
Ribbit

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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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