The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) once again sounded the alarm in mid-December about the latest Social Security Number (SSN) scam that continues to affect thousands of Americans.
The FTC noted that the threat to individuals or groups pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) are growing at an alarming rate. The increase in SSN scams reported to FTC increased from 3,200 in 2017 to 35,000 in 2018.
One attribute that makes SSN scams successful is that scammers’ use sophisticated technology capable of mimic the legitimate contact number of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The caller phone ID says that the SSA is calling you. The scammers have used 1-800-772-1213, the SSA’s national customer service number.
Below is a list of red flags or tactics that you should be aware of: You get a call from the SSA out of the blue. Why is the SSA calling me? I haven’t contacted the SSA in years. If the purported SSA agent makes untruthful or worrying requests or claims, such as the following you know you are being scammed.
- Your SSN is suspended because of crime-related links. The fact is your Social Security numbers cannot get suspended.
- You need to “reactivate” your suspended SSN. Then, scammers either ask for more information or a fee to do this.
- You need to pay for something immediately, like a debt.
- You need to send over your payment via a means they specify, such as the agent requiring you to pay using your prepaid debit card.
- You need to provide a bank routing number or card details over the phone.
- Your SSN is linked to malicious activities that will lead to your arrest or deportation.
- The SSA server is down, so you need to provide the purported agent with your personal information, such as SSN, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and bank information. Never, never, comply with a request like this. The wise person will call the SSA or go to the SSA office personally to determine if there are issues that involve you.
Prevention is the key. Being able to catch the known red flags identified above and knowing what to do should you see a legitimate SSA number flash in the caller ID screen can minimize the risk of getting scammed.
“SSA employees do contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes, and in some situations, an SSA employee may request the citizen to confirm personal information over the phone,” writes Andrew Cannarsa, communications director for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). “However, SSA employees will never threaten you for information or promise a Social Security benefit in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent.” In those cases you just hang up.
Just hang up
Hanging up is the best course of action when you deliberately or accidentally answered a call that you realized, at some point, appears scammy. When in doubt, assume it’s a scam. Not even the legitimate SSA, will penalize you for hanging up on them. Remember that when it comes to nipping scams in the bud, you are in control. End it before they can say another word.
Is the SSA calling? Don’t pick up the phone. Instead, call SSA via their consumer service number and ask if they have been trying to reach you.
Other scams related to SSN
Unfortunately, children and the deceased aren’t safe from fraudsters and identity thieves, either. Parents, make sure you find the time to check your kids’ credit scores to make sure that they remain untouched and are not being built up by someone else. If you see something’s wrong, or if you see signs of potential identity theft, go to this FTC page to read more.
Relatives of deceased loved ones should do credit checks every now and then as well. The Identity Theft Resource Center has useful material on how one can protect the deceased’s identity and other tips.
When it comes to scams, the following is always true: If it smells bad don’t eat it. If you do it could hurt you for a very long time. Proceed with caution and guard your Social Security Number well.