Scams targeting seniors are nothing new–sadly, they seem to be on the rise every year.
Many of these scams target Social Security beneficiaries, in particular. The ultimate goal of the financial predators committing this type of fraud is to gain access to a retiree’s benefits or obtain his Social Security number (SSN) and steal his identity.
While scammers show no signs of slowing their attacks on seniors, the good news is by taking a few simple precautions, we can easily avoid becoming victims of some of the most common Social Security scams.
Be on the lookout for these common Social Security scams
Impersonation of an Social Security Administration employee by phone. Recently, beneficiaries across the country have reported receiving phony phone calls from individuals claiming to be Social Security Administration employees. These callers attempt to ask for identifying information, SSNs, and bank information to “process requests” related to benefits or “verify the identity” of recipients.
The most recent scams involve the caller claiming that “COLA” money is owed to the recipient and information is needed to verify their identity or process the payment.
Be aware that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will almost never request this kind of information over the phone. In the rare case that a legitimate SSA employee does ask, you should be expecting the call already.
Mail scams. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t respond to mailings claiming that you’re eligible for increased benefits, an extra Social Security check, or otherwise owed money by the SSA–especially if it goes on to ask for your SSN.
Bear in mind that the SSA will not ask for your full SSN through the mail (and should not need to ask you for your full SSN regardless of the method of contact). The Social Security Administration already has this information. Only your last four digits should be needed to verify your identity.
Fake websites and emails. A clever scammer can easily design a website, electronic form, or email that uses logos, headers, or other design features that look incredibly similar to those on official government documents or webpages. Fraudulent emails directing users to navigate to bogus websites and input personal information are very common.
The SSA will NEVER contact you by email to obtain your personal information. This has been explicitly stated by the Social Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Anyone contacting you by email claiming to be a Social Security Administration employee is a SCAM.
How to keep your information safe
By following these simple tips, you can dramatically reduce your vulnerability to Social Security scammers:
DO NOT GIVE ANYONE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER, CREDIT CARD INFORMATION, OR PERSONAL INFORMATION IF YOU ARE NOT 100% CERTAIN OF THEIR IDENTITY AND TRUSTWORTHINESS.
Be especially wary of individuals or organizations trying to obtain highly sensitive Social Security or bank information over the phone or via email. Very rarely will an organization ask for your sensitive information via these methods–including the Social Security Administration.
In the event that the “SSA” or some other company attempts to obtain this information electronically or over the phone, it will very likely be known to you (something that was scheduled and expected, or a company you recognize collecting payment for a service you’ve used, for example).
**An excellent way to verify the identity of a caller is to ask for a call back number before giving any of your information. Locate the website of the organization the caller claims to be from. Attempt to match the call back number with the contact number listed on the site. If the number does not match, call the number listed on the trusted site and ask for the person who called you.**
Be vigilant online with your personal information. Do not share your SSN or personal information with unknown people or websites. Before entering payment or personal information into a website, make sure you are at the correct site and are certain of its authenticity.
Always shred paperwork or material containing sensitive bank or Social Security information when you are ready to discard it.
DO NOT CARRY YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD WITH YOU. Memorize your SSN, and never carry your physical card in your wallet, car, purse, or pocket. Do not write your SSN on anything and carry it with you. Do not leave it in the possession of anyone else for any reason. Keep your Social Security card locked in a secure place in your home at all times.
What should you do if you suspect you’ve been contacted by scammer?
If you have reason to believe you’ve received a letter, phone call, or some other type of contact attempting to fraudulently obtain information related to your Social Security, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General wants you to report it immediately.
The OIG is depending on you to help them prevent future victims of Social Security fraud and identity theft.
The OIG offers multiple ways to report Social Security scammers. Fraud reporting with the OIG is easy, safe, and may be anonymous.
To contact the Social Security Administration and report suspected fraud:
Contact the SSA by mail
Social Security Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17785
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
Contact by phone
1-800-269-0271 (between 10AM and 4PM EST)
1-866-501-2101 (for the deaf or hard of hearing)
Visit or contact any Social Security Administration office near you to speak with an SSA employee regarding suspected fraud