Beware: Social Security Scams on the Rise During COVID-19
The Social Security Administration has released a new warning indicating that many new scams have surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at using the current situation to defraud the public. While Social Security scams are nothing new, unscrupulous scammers are constantly finding new ways to try and steal people’s money, identity or both.
New COVID-19 Social Security Scams
Many of these new scams offer COVID-19-related grants, increased Social Security benefits, or economic impact payments over the phone in exchange for your personal financial information, or an advanced fee. These are all scams. The Social Security Administration, or any government agency, will NEVER call you to offer you money.
Another scam warned about by The Inspector General of Social Security, is fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19-related office closures. The SSA IS NOT and WILL NOT be suspending or discontinue Social Security benefits due to the pandemic.
Other COVID-19 scams involve schemes offering or arranging COVID-19 tests and/or COVID-19 vaccinations to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for their personal information, such as their Medicare documentation. The FTC and the National Association of Attorneys General have teamed up to remind people that COVID-19 vaccines ARE FREE and there’s no out-of-pocket cost to get the shots. Legitimate vaccine and testing providers will never call you and ask for your personal information over the phone.
Social Security Scammers Still Target the Elderly
In addition to the new breed of COVID-19 related scams, there continues to be a significant number of fraud schemes that target the elderly – particularly surrounding their Social Security benefits. These schemes may come in the form of a phone call from someone claiming to be from the SSA, who tells the senior that their Social Security payments are going to be suspended because of suspicious or illegal activity, because of the pandemic, or for any number of wild reasons. Whether the caller is a live person or a “robocall,” the victim is advised that unless they resolve the issue by calling a certain number and “verifying their information”, their account will be frozen and their payments will stop.
Social Security Scammers Use Fear to Get Personal Information
Since many elderly people rely on Social Security benefits for a large portion of their income, the prospect of a frozen account is frightening, to say the least. The schemers count on this fear to cause their victims to do what they ask without thinking. These victims are then told they must provide certain information, including their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth and/or banking information.
The schemers then have everything they need to steal identities, open up fraudulent bank accounts, drain existing accounts and apply for loans in the names of unsuspecting Social Security recipients. And unfortunately, this is only one scenario that is used to defraud the elderly.
Social Security Scams Come in Many Forms
Phone calls are not the only way scammers take advantage of Social Security recipients. Not too long ago, many retirees received an e-mail that appeared to be from the SSA. It looked official, contained an @ssa.gov e-mail address, and even asked recipients to click on a link to receive enhanced protection of their benefits. This link requested information that was then used for identity theft.
Schemers can easily duplicate Washington, D.C. area codes so their calls look like they are coming from a governmental agency. The lesson to be learned is that just because something looks or sounds official, don’t just assume that it is official.
Things the Social Security Administration Won’t Do
The Social Security Administration will never:
* Call you to demand an immediate payment
* Demand that you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe
* Require a specific means of payment, such as a prepaid debit card
* Ask for your personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone
* Threaten you with arrest or deportation
Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams
Our Long Beach attorneys advise that there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself.
- Hang up. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, hang up immediately. It is in all likelihood a scheme to get your money or your personal information. The SSA will only call you in response to a question or case that you initiated. So any unsolicited call is almost certainly fraud, and you are safe in hanging up the phone. If you did contact the Social Security Administration recently and want to ensure that the call-back is actually from the SSA, you may call their customer service line (1-800-772-1213) to find out if the caller is authentic. A real Social Security employee will give his or her name, phone number and extension.
- Do Not Give Out Personal Information on the Phone. Our Social Security lawyers recommend that you never give out personal information over the telephone to someone unless you initiated the call to a known number and are confident that you are speaking to a legitimate SSA employee. Any information you give to an unsolicited caller, whether or not the caller seems threatening, will likely be used in ways that will harm you.
- Don’t Say “Yes.” If the caller asks you to simply verify information, do NOT say “yes.” Some fraudsters record your voice as you respond, and your “yes” will then be used to authorize charges on your bank accounts and credit cards.
- Report Fraud. If you receive a suspicious call, report it. The Social Security Administration does follow up when they are advised of scams involving people who misrepresent themselves as being from the SSA. If you suspect fraud, report it by calling the SSA Fraud Hotline (1-800-269-0271) or, if you prefer, you can report fraud online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report. Reporting an attempted scam helps the Social Security Administration alert the public to both the frequency and the nature of these potential frauds. You’re not only protecting yourself, but also helping protect the public.
Long Beach Social Security Lawyers
If you or a loved one is unable to work due to a disabling injury, medical condition or disease our skilled and experienced lawyers are here to help you get the maximum Social Security Disability benefits for which you qualify. And, if you received a suspicious call, our Long Beach lawyers are available to help you decide whether or not it is legitimate, and what to do about it.
The Law Office of Cantrell Green is a group of highly qualified and experienced disability attorneys who have obtained millions of dollars in Social Security Disability benefits for thousands of clients in Long Beach, Orange County and the greater Los Angeles. Our lawyers care about every client, and fight tirelessly to obtain the benefits for which you qualify.