Social Security scams have intensified in the past two months, with 36,000 consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and reported losses of $6.7 million in these two months alone, eclipsing complaints from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams.
In total, 76,000 Social Security scam complaints have flooded the FTC with reported losses of $19 million in the past year.
According to the FTC, only 3.4 percent of those who report a Social Security scam say they have lost money; most are concerned that the scammer has their Social Security number, which could lead to identity theft.
However, when victims do lose money, it’s considerable. The median individual reported loss last year was $1,500, four times the median individual loss for all types of fraud. Both older and younger adults file loss reports at similar rates.
Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim services for AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, says 94 percent of calls to the organization’s Helpline concern Social Security scams.
Scammers use robocalls to reach consumers by phone, requesting that they “press 1” to speak to a government “support representative” to help reactivate their Social Security number.
Or, in a caller ID spoofing scam, the telephone number 800-269-0271 flashes on the screen. It’s the Social Security Administration’s OIG (Office of the Inspector General) Fraud Hotline phone number being used to convince you to answer a call that is really from fraudsters.
SSA employees occasionally contact people by telephone for customer-service issues. If you have business pending with the SSA, for example, an employee may telephone you and request that you confirm personal information. Be cautious.
SSA employees will never threaten you to obtain information or promise benefits in exchange for information from you, according to an SSA spokesperson.
Generally, agency notifications are sent by postal mail or email, if you have created a “my Social Security” account online.
Contact SSA at 800-772-1213 to determine if the agency is, in fact, trying to reach you and why. Meanwhile, keep your Social Security number confidential.
The best approach to avoid scammers is not to answer calls from unknown contacts, experts say.
“That’s the approach you should continue to take,” says Andrew Cannarsa, a spokesman for the SSA OIG. “Just hang up and ignore these calls.”
If you received what you suspect is an SSA impostor phone call and you interacted with the caller, providing personal information or money, report that information to the SSA OIG online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report. If possible, provide the phone number the fraudster asked you to call, the information you offered, and the amount of money you provided to the caller.
If you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft because you confirmed or gave out your Social Security number to a fraudster, visit www.identitytheft.gov/SSA.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts," review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.
Harriet Edleson, AARP, April 19, 2019