Common Social Security Scams
The Social Security Administration takes scams seriously. Common social security scams focus on fraudulent actions designed to steal money or personal identities for profit. Some strategies that criminals use to perpetrate a scam are listed below.
- Selling social security cards
- Filing a claim using another individual’s social security card
- Impersonating Social Security employees
- Continuing to collect social security funds after the beneficiaries’ death
- Bribing Social Security employees
Ways to Prevent and Avoid Social Security Scams
There are recommended safety precautions that can be used to prevent scammers from stealing your social security number or identity. Considering the rise in this type of crime, it is important that seniors, in particular, become aware of smart strategies to keep their personal information out of the hands of criminals intent on exploiting the U.S. government and its citizens.
Below are five proven strategies that anyone can take to safeguard their social security number and other critical, personal information.
1. Do not carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
Since a purse or wallet can easily be lost or stolen, you should not carry your social security card with you on a regular basis. If this sensitive information lands in the wrong hands, then your social security card can be sold for a price. It becomes much easier to commit identity theft once a criminal has your social security number.
While it is easy to cancel your credit cards in situations like this, having your social security number circulating compromises your financial identity. Criminals can obtain credit in your name by establishing a whole new identity. Far too many people are victimized annually, finding themselves in a financial crisis after a criminal steals their identity and incurs substantial debt in their name.
2. Establish a My Social Security online account to monitor account activity.
It is easy to set up a My Social Security account at ssa.gov. Once you’ve set up your personal account, you can monitor it on a regular basis to ensure that there is no strange or fraudulent activity.
If you do see suspicious activity that might indicate that an unauthorized party is using your account, then you can alert the proper authorities so they can take action to secure your account and prevent additional security breaches.
3. Add security blocks to your social security account.
There are three different types of security measures that you can take to protect your account. The eServices block prevents other people from accessing your account or changing your information online. This keeps cybercriminals out of your account. This means you or your personal representative would have to visit an office with the correct ID in order to access your social security account to make any changes or to remove the security block.
The Direct Deposit Fraud Prevention block offers another preventative way that people can protect their social security account. As the name implies, this block prevents criminals from enrolling in direct deposit or from changing the details related to the financial institution where your check is deposited. Like the eServices block described above, you or a personal representative would have to visit a Social Security office with the appropriate ID to make these changes or to remove the block.
If you are worried that your social security card or number has been compromised, then you can place a fraud alert on your number. That will keep criminals from stealing your identity to open up credit accounts under your name. Call one of the three national credit bureaus to set this up for a full year.
4. Be cautious about suspicious emails, phone calls, and internet links requesting sensitive personal information.
Verify any internet or email activity by calling or visiting your local social security offices to ensure that the communication is legitimate. You can also check with your My Social Security account online to review recent notices that need your attention since important messages and activities will show up there.
It is important to recognize suspicious activity to protect yourself from scammers. Anytime you are threatened over the phone by a person who claims to be a social security employee, it is a scam. SSA employees will never threaten you with any type of legal action or arrest if you don’t pay them.
Additionally, it is also helpful to realize that many criminals are sophisticated and use government numbers so they appear to be calling from social security. Even when you receive calls from official-looking numbers, it can be a scammer. If they ask you for personal information in a threatening way to complete a wire transfer or payment, never give it to them.
Hang up and do not communicate with anyone threatening you. They are not from social security.
5. Report suspicious social security activity immediately to the appropriate authorities.
Suspicious activity should be reported immediately. If you receive a suspicious call, it is important to hang up and then report the caller to the Inspector General at https://oig.ssa.gov/. Remembering details so that you can make an accurate report is helpful.
Don’t be too embarrassed to report all the facts, even if you gave out some information before realizing that it might be a scammer. Many criminals are sophisticated and victimize thousands of people annually. They know how to gain your trust.
In situations where someone has used your Social Security number to take out a loan or credit card, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately. They will file a report to minimize the damage. The identity theft hotline can be reached at 1-877-438-4338. Their website address is ftc.gov/idtheft.
You can’t be too careful about securing your social security number to prevent fraud or identity theft. By following the precautionary steps above, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of social security scams.