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Social Security Scams and How to Avoid Them

By March 13, 2021December 30th, 2021Social Security Disability
What to Do About Social Security Scams

Although technology innovation has improved our lives in many ways, it has made us more vulnerable to privacy and security breaches, including identity theft. Because Social Security affects so many people in the United States, they’re easy targets for scammers who have developed a variety of ways to gain access to personal information. In fact, by the end of the fiscal year 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had received over 450,000 complaints regarding scammers who pretended to be SSA to obtain personal information and steal benefits. It’s important to be aware of Social Security scams to avoid falling victim to them.

What is Social Security Fraud?

Social Security fraud involves a third-party gaining access to valuable information, such as Social Security number, through wilful misrepresentation and exploiting it for their own financial benefits. There are many different ways to commit Social Security fraud. The Office of the Inspector General lists 11 types of Social Security fraud:

  • Making false statements on claims
  • Concealing facts or events which affect eligibility for Social Security benefits
  • Misuse of benefits by a representative payee
  • Buying or selling counterfeit or legitimate Social Security cards
  • SSN misuse involving people with links to terrorist groups or activities
  • Crimes involving SSA employees
  • Social Security scams involving the impersonation of an SSA employee
  • Bribery of a Social Security Administration employee
  • Fraud or misuse of grant or contracting funds
  • Standards of conduct violations
  • Worker’s compensation fraud

Social Security Fraud Calls

One of the main methods by which scammers try to get information like your Social Security number, date of birth, bank information, or address is to represent themselves as agents of the Social Security Administration. There are laws that prohibit non-government businesses and people from using the Social Security Administration’s emblems to mislead people into thinking they are official representatives of the SSA. Advertisements cannot make people think these businesses are approved by, affiliated with, or endorsed by the SSA. But as long as there are laws, there are bad actors doing the bare minimum to comply with them.

You might receive a phone call or voicemail telling you that your Social Security number has been suspended because the SSA detected illegal activity associated with it; you will be given a phone number that you can call to have your Social Security number reinstated after you verify some personal information. You could also be contacted by someone offering to help you complete a disability application or Medicare paperwork.

Alternatively, you may see companies advertising services that they can provide you for a fee, such as correcting your Social Security card to show a married or changed name, replacing a lost Social Security card, giving you your Social Security income statement, or generating a Social Security number for a child. Unfortunately, all of those are services that the SSA provides for free.

How to Tell if it’s a Social Security Scam Call

Scammers use phone calls, text messages and email messages to impersonate Social Security personnel and fool people into giving up personal information. It’s important that you’re aware of their tricks so you can protect yourself and others from Social Security scams. Here’s what to watch out for!

Social Security may call, email or text you in some situations, but will never:

  • Threaten you.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Demand an immediate payment from you.
  • Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer.
  • Ask for gift card numbers over the phone.
  • Offer to increase benefits in exchange for payment.
  • Email or text with personally identifiable information.
  • Include misspellings or grammar mistakes in an email or text message.
  • Ask for a return call to an unknown number.

Social Security Administration only sends emails or text messages if you have opted to receive them and only in limited situations. The SSA rarely contacts people over the phone. If you get a suspicious phone call, email or text message from someone claiming to be a representative from the SSA, do not give them any personal information. Hang up the phone.

Get into the habit of rejecting phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize, and be wary of clicking on email links from suspicious senders. You can always double-check with SSA to make sure they did not actually need information from you by calling your local Social Security office.

Where to Report Social Security Scams

If you think you’ve been the victim of a Social Security scam in the way of advertising, phone calls, emails or text messages, report it immediately to the Office of the Inspector General SSA. Consider adding your name to the National Do Not Call Registry; it won’t block everyone trying to contact you, but it will help.