Over the past few years, an overseas “gang” has targeted Americans by trying to get personal information and/or money from them over the phone. The scammer may call your cell or home number and say that you will receive an additional social security benefit if you can verify your information. Or, they may tell you that you owe a certain amount and if you don’t pay you’ll be arrested immediately. Please know that the government NEVER calls you or emails you. They simply send a letter detailing corrective actions if they are warranted. That policy holds true for the IRS and the Social Security Administration.
If you get a call like that, don’t panic. Simply hang up. As a general rule, you should never give anyone your personal information over the phone.
The scammers are getting more sophisticated as they realize that awareness is spreading. Following are some common calls that you should ignore.
- Threats of arrest or legal action: If you receive a threatening phone call claiming that there‘s an issue with your Social Security number or benefits, it’s a scam. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will never threaten you with arrest or other legal action if you don’t immediately pay a fine or fee.
- Emails or texts requesting personal, identifiable information: If there’s a legitimate problem with your Social Security number or record, the SSA will mail you a letter to notify you of any issues.
- Misspellings and grammar mistakes: If the caller follows up with emails containing falsified letters or reports that appear to be from the SSA or SSA’s OIG, look closely. The letters may use government “jargon” or letterhead that appears official in order to help convince victims, but they often also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.
- Requests for payment by gift card, pre-paid card, cash, or wire transfer: If you do need to submit payments to the SSA, the agency will mail a letter with payment instructions and options through the U.S. mail. You should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. Scammers ask for these types of payments because they are difficult to trace and recover.
- Offers to increase benefits in exchange for payment: Similarly, SSA employees will never promise to increase your Social Security benefits or offer other assistance in exchange for payment.
What you should do if you get a call:
If you think you’ve been the victim of a Social Security scam, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov/complaint and to the SSA Office of Inspector General Fraud at oig.ssa.gov.
Keep in mind that you should exercise the same caution when you get calls or electronic communication from banks, brokerage firms, etc. Especially now, with the economic downturn, more people than ever are looking to make a quick buck.
As always, contact us if you have any questions or concerns.