7 Social Security scams to avoid

We found seven typical scams and, sadly, there are probably more. Clients, coworkers, relatives need to be aware of these.

Sign up to receive press releases from the Office of the Inspector General, which keeps people abreast of the latest Social Security scams, or call the OIG hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Or visit the FTC’s complaint website to report them. (All photos: Shutterstock)

1. Asking for a Social Security number.

Lots of scams are built around stealing the valid Social Security number of someone else to open the door to identity theft—which can bring the scammer far more than one person’s financial resources.

It opens the door to unauthorized loans, health care and credit cards, not to mention even such plums as the purchase of property or vehicles. One way to spot a scammer likely in search of the key to identity theft is to beware of anyone asking for your Social Security number.

Banks and other financial institutions with whom you deal legitimately will already have it; Social Security won’t ask for it; and anyone else who does should be verified before any information is offered.

2. Posing as a government official.

A popular scam these days is for a caller to claim to be from the government warning the would-be victim that their Social Security number has been linked to criminal activity and suspended, according to AARP.

The caller will offer to “reactivate” the number by having the victim confirm it and/or send money. Don’t fall for it, and call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 if you get such a call.

3. If it’s not a live person, it’s probably a scam.

Robocallers often carry out such scams, providing a phone number for the victim to call to resolve whatever problem the robocall claims to exist. Don’t ever call back the number they leave; it may actually end up costing thousands in overseas calls.

Instead, if you’re really afraid there’s an actual problem, independently find the number yourself for the institution supposedly calling you, whether Social Security, a bank, or some other agency, and call that instead. That will allow you to find out whether the call is legit.

4. You’re getting a raise in your Social Security benefit check.

You know what they say: if it’s too good to be true… Again, call Social Security independently, not at any number provided by the caller.

Anyone supposedly calling from Social Security and offering you a raise, or bonus, or other benefit, and asking you to verify your name, address and Social Security number, is looking for a way to hijack your information and benefits.


5. Don’t click on links in e-mails.

AARP cites Consumer Reports as the source of a warning about this one: the e-mail looks as if it’s from the Social Security Administration, but if you click on the link (usually supposed to protect you from Social Security fraud), you’ll be sent to a fake website that will steal all your information.

6. Don’t return robocaller voicemails claiming to be from Social Security.

It’s a scammer, no doubt, and instead of calling them back, call the Social Security customer service line at 800-772-1213. And even if your caller ID says it’s from that number, be afraid—be very afraid.

Spoofers can bring up all sorts of legitimate numbers to make you think the call is real; always find the number independently and call that number instead of the one so conveniently provided to you.


7. The letter promises you extra benefits, as long as you fill out the form…

You guessed it. Investopedia highlights a snail-mail scam that tries to fool you into filling out a form with all your pertinent information, including SSN and a filing fee, and probably your bank account number, too, to get a nonexistent “extra benefit” check.

Remember, Social Security already knows your Social Security number. It doesn’t have to ask, and anybody else asking isn’t entitled to know it.

(Related:  12 Best States for Retirement: 2020)

Holiday details occupy top of mind for lots of people even as financial details demand attention. Unfortunately, at this time of year, scammers come out of the woodwork to prey on busy people. And there’s one very important element that gets a lot of attention from scammers — not just during the holiday season, really, but all year round – Social Security.

Older people may fall prey to Social Security scams that seek to separate them from their money or worse, their identity, whether out of naïveté, illness, dementia or believing plain old scare tactics – and the holiday season is not exempt.

(Related: Scammed: How Savvy Investors, Johnny Depp and Regular Folks Get Duped)

So now is an excellent time to review scammers’ tactics. And to that end, here are 7 ways that a Social Security recipient, or their caregiver, can spot a scam a mile away—and report it to stop it in its tracks.

Sign up to receive press releases from the Office of the Inspector General keeping people abreast of the latest Social Security scams, or call the OIG hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or visit the FTC’s complaint website  to report them. Be warned, and be safe!

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