“I recently received a strange call from a Social Security employee. He told me my Social Security number had been suspended because it was involved in a crime, and that I needed to reactivate it and secure my bank funds by withdrawing them and putting them on gift cards. Is this a scam?”
This is one of thousands of phone calls being made to seniors across America. The writer of the question was wise to ask before doing anything foolish. The scam, according to The Sentinel Source’s article “How to protect yourself from the Social Security imposter scam,” has led more than 76,000 people to call the Federal Trade Commission. The average loss is about $1,500, although there are others who lose significantly more to the scammers.
The scam starts with a phone call from a person claiming to be with the Social Security Administration. The caller tells the victim that their Social Security number has been suspended, because it was stolen or involved in a crime. The voice sounds very authoritative, and people are fooled by it.
The phone caller may be a person or a robocaller that next instructs the victim to press 1 to speak with a fake support representative, who next claims to be able to reactivate the person’s Social Security account.
There’s a new variation on the scam, where the victim is told that they qualify for an increase in Social Security benefits. All they need to do is provide the caller with some personal information. That information is often enough for the scammer to drain their bank accounts or steal their identity.
Here’s the thing: there have been many data breaches in recent years. So much personal information is available for purchase on the internet, that scammers have learned to use all or a part of the information to convince victims that the scammers are legitimate callers. If a caller knows their victim’s Social Security number, people are more likely to be convinced that the call is legitimate.
Don’t fall victim to this scam. Here’s what you need to know:
Don’t trust caller ID. Technology allows the scammers to create a false caller ID. Therefore, that they appear to be calling from the Social Security Administration. If you see a call from Social Security, don’t answer it. Instead, call the real Social Security number at 800-772-1213.
Understand that Social Security will never suspend your number and then demand payment to fix the problem. Anyone saying that is scamming you.
Never give out any personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank account information or any personal information to anyone. If you already did, call Social Security to find out what steps you can take to protect your credit and your identity.
Just because the caller seems to know some of your information, don’t believe them. They can easily learn a host of information, just by looking at your social media accounts or buying information illegally.
No one from any government agency asks for payment in gift cards. They may describe the gift cards in some confusing term, like ‘certified official financial’ payments. However, if you can buy them at a store and they look like gift cards, they are gift cards.
If you have been scammed, don’t be embarrassed. Tell your family and friends and get the help you need. Alerting your friends and family helps them, so that they will be better prepared to defend themselves.
Reference: The Sentinel Source (June 16, 2019) “How to protect yourself from the Social Security imposter scam”