Social Security Launches Campaign to Fight Scams
A recent study by AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) reported that fraud has skyrocketed amongst senior citizens. Outside analysts looking at elder fraud have estimated losses at upward of $2.9 billion a year. It seems that fraudsters have targeted senior citizens as a goldmine of opportunity.
The incidence of Social Security scams has skyrocketed over the last year, and now holds the dubious distinction of being the number one type of fraud that has been reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration.
Social Security Scams May Seem Legitimate
Scammers rely on fear and surprise to intimidate intended victims. They generally speak quickly and assertively, and may ask you to “verify” personal or financial information. They may threaten arrest or other legal action, threaten to suspend your Social Security benefits or even your Social Security number. Or, on the other hand, they may offer to increase your benefits, offer protection for your assets or resolve identity theft. Generally, their pitch includes a demand for immediate payment in the form of retail gift cards, wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, internet currency, or even mailing cash.
Scammers are always perfecting their craft. A more recent scam involves emailing fake documents to get people to comply with their demands. The emails contain attached letters and reports that look like they are from the Social Security Administration or the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The letters may even appear to be written on official letterhead, using legalese or official language to convince intended victims that they are legitimate.
PSAs Help Fight Social Security Scams
In January of 2020, the Social Security Administration issued a new set of warnings to senior citizens about an ongoing nationwide telephone impersonation scam by way of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign.
The January 2020 public service announcement contained a personal message from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul. It stated that the Social Security Administration and its OIG have received an increased number of complaints reporting fraudulent phone calls from people posing as Social Security employees.
Saul states unequivocally that people receiving such a call should hang up immediately, and under no circumstances should one ever give the caller money or personal or financial information. Immediately after hanging up, go to the SSA website (oig.ssa.gov) to report the scam call to Social Security.
Social Security Offers Online Reporting for Fraud
In December of 2019, newly appointed Commissioner Andrew Saul unveiled Social Security’s new dedicated online form designed to make the reporting of Social Security-related fraud much easier. That form can be found at https://oig.ssa.gov.
This online form is used to capture data that is analyzed for trends and commonalities. The OIG uses the data in their investigation to develop leads, which many times lead to the identification of the criminals who perpetrate the scams. The OIG expects that the data collected will serve to disrupt the scammers, and will begin to reduce both the fraud and the number of victims.
Commissioner Saul has expressed that he is deeply troubled that scammers have not been stopped from deceiving senior citizens, who comprise some of the most vulnerable members of society. He and Inspector General Ennis have combined their efforts to encourage the public to use the new online form to report Social Security scams in whatever form they take, such as robocalls, live callers, emails, texts, or face-to-face. The form includes the creation of a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN), so if the OIG does contact a person to follow up about their report, the person can be assured that the call is legitimate.
How to Know if a Call from Social Security Is Legitimate
In general, a Social Security employee will only call someone who has recently applied for a Social Security Benefit, someone who is already receiving payments and requires an update to their record, or someone who has requested a telephone call.
Social Security will never:
- Threaten you
- Suspend your Social Security number
- Demand an immediate payment
- Request credit or debit card numbers over the phone
- Demand a specific means of debt repayment (for instance, a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, wire transfer, or cash)
- Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
- Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.
How to Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of Social Security scams:
- If you receive a questionable call, hang up immediately, and then report the call online at https://oig.ssa.gov.
- Don’t return unknown
- Don’t allow fear to push you into making unwise decisions.
- Ask someone you trust for advice before making any large purchase or financial decision.
- Don’t be embarrassed to report if you did share personal financial information or suffered a financial loss.
Generally speaking, if there is a problem with your Social Security number or record, the Social Security will send you a letter by mail. If a payment is required, the SSA will send a letter with instructions and payment options. If you dispute the payment, an appeal process is available. No one should ever provide information or payment over the phone or Internet unless they are certain of who is receiving it.
Social Security Lawyers – Long Beach CA
Social Security attorneys at the Long Beach Law Office of Cantrell Green understand how upsetting it can be to receive a menacing call demanding immediate payment or threatening to reduce benefits. We thoroughly understand how the Social Security Administration operates, what they do, and sometimes more importantly, what they do not do. If you get a threatening phone call, hang up immediately, make your online report, and then give us a call. We can investigate whether or not the call is legitimate, and if by any chance it is, we can help you work with the Social Security Administration to resolve any issues or problems in an amicable manner