Elder Law Tips: Beware the latest Social Security scam!
I provide elder law tips to help protect seniors – your health, welfare, assets, and estate. Recently, I’ve heard from some of my clients that they received an official email notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA) warning about imposter scams that are bilking seniors out of millions of dollars. That means the scam is growing and is very serious. If you don’t have an email account, the SSA may send you an official letter. It’s important to be on the alert for these scam calls.
Scams Increasing Along With Financial Losses
The number of scams are increasing. For instance, in 2017, the SSA reported hearing from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams. Those people reported losing nearly $210,000. In 2018 that number rose to more than 35,000 people reportedly being scammed at a loss of $10 million. As of Sept. 30, 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reported receiving more than 450,000 complaints about scammers. Clearly the loss is much greater than $10 million!
Seniors Have Always Been Targeted By Criminals
Targeting seniors has always been a strategy of cons and scammers throughout the ages. Seniors tend to be more vulnerable than younger age groups. Many have cognitive issues and are easily frightened which scammers are counting on. With caller ID and many mobile phone companies now identifying potential scam and marketing calls, the best idea is simply not to answer any phone call unless it is from someone in your contact list. If you do answer a call and the person says that your Social Security Number has been suspended, hang up immediately.
What Scam Calls Sound Like
If you do happen to answer a call be aware of how these scams work. The caller may say your Social Security number (SSN) has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime. Sometimes, the scammer wants you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Sometimes, they may say your bank account is about to be seized – of course they will tell you what to do to keep it safe. (Often, that involves putting your money on gift cards and giving him the codes – which, of course, means that your money is gone.)
Often your caller ID shows the real SSA phone number (1-800-772-1213) when these scammers call – but they’re faking that number. It’s not the real SSA calling.
When The Real Social Security Administration Calls
The fact is that Social Security may call you in some situations but will never:
- Threaten you
- Suspend your Social Security Number
- Ask you to pay anything
- Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer
- Ask for gift card numbers over the phone or to wire or mail cash
If you are receiving Social Security Benefits, you have paid into the system and are receiving your earned benefits. You don’t pay anything, but scammers count on creating confusion to rattle you.
Be cautious and never give your Social Security number to anyone. This is a serious scam so please share this information with your friends.