People who are aware of scams are less likely to be scammed, so it’s important that you know what kind of scams are out there. Share this information with others and especially people you know whom may be more susceptible.
The AARP refers to social security numbers as “the skeleton key to identity theft“. Social Security numbers are such valuable pieces of information – if yours gets into the wrong hands, you could be dealing with identity theft issues and could be repeatedly defrauded for years.
Types of Social Security Scams
Scammers use every means available; mail (using SSA letterhead), phone, text message, email, and social media messages.
There are common themes across most scams that are dead giveaways. Social Security will never do any of the following:
- Threaten to suspend your Social Security number
- Warn of arrest or legal action
- Demand or request immediate payment
- Require payment by gift card, prepaid debit card, Internet currency, or by mailing cash
- Pressure you for personal information
- Request secrecy
- Threaten to seize your bank account
- Promise to increase your Social Security benefit
- Try to gain your trust by providing (false) “evidence” they’re a government official
Phone Call Scams and Robocalls
These are the most common.
Did you know robocalls (computer-generated phone calls) can mask their phone number? Their computers can make your caller ID show any phone number they choose. Even though your caller ID might show the SSA’s real phone number (1-800-772-1213), that is not the real SSA calling.
The AARP has shared the following recording of a real robocall scam so you can get familiar with these kinds of scams.
Listen to an actual scam call about a supposedly compromised Social Security number. The caller’s warning is 100 percent fake: The real Social Security Administration does not suspend numbers.
By Mail (Using SSA Letterhead)
From the SSA Office of the Inspector General:
Scammers are using regular mail delivery to send fraudulent letters on SSA letterhead, advising the recipient to call a toll-free number to activate an increase in SSA benefits, such as a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The letters appear to be from an SSA official and are on SSA letterhead.
COLAs are automatic and do not require any kind of activation.https://oig.ssa.gov/scam-awareness/scam-alert/
How to Report a Scam
The Office of the Inspector General has several ways to report Social Security scams. You can contact them by phone at 1-800-269-0271 Monday-Friday, 10am–4pm ET (for TTY call 1-866-501-2101), by mail, or via online form.
You can report all kinds of scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
The AARP has a Fraud Watch Network Helpline you can call at 877-908-3360 and speak to a fraud specialist Monday-Friday, 8am–8pm ET, totally free. Per AARP, the “Helpline is a free resource for getting guidance you can trust, free of judgment.”
You can also report it on AARP’s Scam-Tracking Map or view other scams in your area.
Where to Learn More and Get Scam Updates
Social Security Administration (SSA)
The AARP Fraud Watch Network has tons of resources and tools and is free for all to use. You can also signup for AARP’s Watchdog Alerts for biweekly email alerts and tips on avoiding scams, or or text FWN to 50757 to receive text alerts.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC works with over 3,000 law enforcement agencies to share info they gather on scams and fraud. You can also register for the Federal Do Not Call List through the FTC. Visit reportfraud.ftc.gov for more information.