Scams and scammers have existed since the dawn of human history, but these days, the Internet has made it easier than ever for unscrupulous individuals to gain access to personal data for nefarious purposes. While many scams involving personal data revolve around using information to open fraudulent credit accounts, more straightforward and intimidating scams involve the impersonation of government officials from the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding retirement benefits. Modern scammers often use the web to seek out unsuspecting targets and to find information that provides credibility to the stories they tell victims.
How Do These Scams Work?
Many Social Security scams are designed to illicit funds from victims through the use of threats. A scammer may contact a Social Security beneficiary and claim that there has been an overpayment of funds. In doing so, the scammer will then tell the victim that if he or she does not send a payment to cover the overage or provide access to a bank account, the associated Social Security account will be closed and all future payments will be canceled. For someone who depends on Social Security payments as a sole source of income, this type of threat can be very scary, leading victims to act quickly without researching the situation first.
Another Social Security scam involves a scammer contacting a victim and telling him or her that there has been suspicious activity involving the associated retirement benefits account. The scammer will attempt to verify specific details regarding personal information, and he or she may also request personal banking details, including account numbers, bank passwords, account balances and more. Once the scammer obtains the needed information, he or she can then potentially gain access to bank funds, schedule transfers or withdrawals and open credit accounts or loans in the victim’s name.
Does Social Security Call You About Suspicious Activity?
Because of the danger posed by scammers, the Social Security Administration’s policy is to only conduct business with account holders by mail. The SSA will never call you regarding your account, even if suspicious activity has been recorded. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the SSA, the call is most likely a scam and you should hang up and report the call directly to the SSA.
Additionally, you should never give any personal details to someone on the phone claiming to be a representative from the SSA. Likewise, the SSA will not email you regarding your account, although you may receive informational emails if you sign up for an online account through the SSA’s website, www.ssa.gov. This is the official and only website for the Social Security Administration, and it provides access to tools to manage your account. If you respond to a mailed letter from the Social Security Administration, consider doing so by certified mail.
If in Doubt, Visit an Office
If you ever have any questions about your account or any contact from the SSA, you can always visit your local SSA office. There, you can speak to official Administration representatives who can investigate your concerns and confirm whether or not the contact was valid. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, your local SSA office will be able to help by opening an investigation on your behalf.
Once again, the SSA will never call you regarding your account and only conducts business through the mail. Even if a phone call sounds official or the caller attempts to threaten or intimidate you, simply hang up and reach out to the SSA yourself for further details regarding the matter.