In 2023, an average of 67 million Americans receive monthly Social Security checks, totaling over $1 trillion paid during the year.
It comes as no surprise that scam artists will try almost anything — from fake calls, text messages, emails and letters — to get the personal information of Social Security beneficiaries. Last year, there were more than 35,752 reports of Social Security fraud, totaling over $1.04 million in losses, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Here are some of the most commonly reported scams, as well as how to report them yourself.
More and more fraudsters are calling Social Security beneficiaries pretending to be government employees, claiming that there is identity theft or a problem with one’s Social Security number, account or benefits. These calls are oftentimes threatening and may demand payment or face arrest or legal action.
Fake calls may also sound friendly, however, and may offer to provide services. These can be offers to enroll a family member in the Social Security program or provide a record of contributions and expected future income. These are attempts to extract as much information from you as possible.
If there’s a problem, the Social Security Administration will typically mail you a letter and will only call you if you requested a call. According to the SSA, “Social Security will not threaten you, press you for personal information or demand instant payment. Social Security does not accept payments by gift card, prepaid debit card, internet currency or by mailing cash. Criminals use these forms of payment because they are hard to trace.”
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Another method is to send out emails that appear to be from the SSA. Phishing is an attempt to trick you into giving out your personal information. Scammers can try to steal passwords, account numbers or your Social Security number. With this information, they can gain access to your email, bank or other accounts.
These emails could have the agency’s seal and similar font style and may make demands or threats. Legitimate emails from the SSA will never ask for personal information and will never threaten you.
Fraud by Mail
While most scams are done online, criminals may still try direct mail scams. These are typically sent to older people. Letters may offer an extra Social Security check in return for personal information and a filing fee, according to Investopedia. The SSA will never ask you for your personal information, nor will it ever request money.
How To Report Social Security Scams
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of a Social Security scam or wish to report any attempts, you can call the Office of the Inspector General hotline (1-800-269-0271) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. You can also submit a fraud report through the OIG website. In addition, filing a complaint through the Federal Trade Commission’s website is also an option.
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