Con artists are always developing new scams, and while Social Security is their primary bait right now, don’t be surprised if they switch to a new tactic. One critical thing to be aware of: Social Security will send you a letter if there is any kind of problem with your account, says Forbes in the article “Beat The Latest Scams to Steal Your Identity and Social Security Benefits.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2019/08/14/beat-the-latest-scams-to-steal-your-identity-and-social-security-benefits/#7ce90e6bbe44) You will never get a phone call from Social Security demanding that you purchase gift cards.
Not so long ago, scammers were telling their victims that they were from the IRS and needed immediate payment. That scam, which was traced to call centers in India, is now greatly reduced and many of the perpetrators have been arrested. However, every time one scam gets shut down, two others spring up to take its place.
The Social Security scam is hitting cities and towns nationwide. The caller says that the person’s Social Security number has been suspended due to fraudulent activity involving the number. The scammer says that the person being called must take immediate action to have their number reinstated.
Sometimes the caller is belligerent and nasty. Other times, a softer tone is taken, and the caller says they need only to confirm the person’s Social Security Number because the computers are down and their help is needed, so the account is not suspended. Another scam comes in via email, requesting that the person click on a link and follow the instructions to provide their Social Security number.
Regardless of the form of contact or approach, the scammer’s goal is to get your Social Security number, other personal information, and gift card numbers that are swiftly transformed into cash.
The Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have both advised that neither organization will call or email people under either of these circumstances. If Social Security finds a problem, you’ll receive a letter.
Social Security does send emails from time to time to remind people to review their benefits statements and check to make sure their earnings history is correct. These emails only arrive if you have established a “My Social Security” account on the government website.
To be safe, don’t click on any links from any emails about Social Security. The email address, just like the Caller ID on your phone, could be spoofed. To check your earnings history, go to the Social Security website on your own computer. You can also call the local Social Security office or the national 800-number.
Another scam can occur if spammers do get your Social Security number, which sadly is available for sale online. They will open your “My Social Security” account in your name and change the address and the financial account where benefits are deposited. If you aren’t already receiving benefits, they apply for your benefits and have them directed into the scammer’s accounts. It’s best to open up a “My Social Security” account of your own, even if you don’t plan on collecting benefits for several years.
On that account, you’ll be able to check your benefits, earnings history, and see if anyone else has applied for benefits in your name or tried to change the financial account where your benefits are deposited. It’s a good idea to log into your account every few months to see if there’s been any activity, especially if you are at least 62 and don’t plan on applying for benefits for a while.
Reference: Forbes (August 14, 2019) “Beat The Latest Scams to Steal Your Identity and Social Security Benefits.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2019/08/14/beat-the-latest-scams-to-steal-your-identity-and-social-security-benefits/#7ce90e6bbe44)