Authorities across the country are warning of new scams targeting elderly Social Security over the phone, where individuals claiming to be government representatives try to collect sensitive information under the guise of a computer glitch causing issues with benefits. The Social Security Administration has made it very clear that under no circumstances will it call or send emails to beneficiaries asking for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth or other private information, and advises people to not respond to such messages.
Other scams include callers asserting that beneficiaries need to pay a fee to unlock their Social Security number because of criminal activity and will also need to confirm their Social Security number. The Federal Trade Commission recently confirmed an increase in this type of scam and beneficiaries should be on the lookout for this type of illicit activity.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network recently announced it has had more complaints to its helpline in the past few months from consumers targeted by Social Security impostors than the older IRS scams that harassed thousands, if not millions, of Americans since 2013. According to the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, those IRS scams stole more than $73.6 million from almost 15,000 victims over the past five years.
In order to check whether any messages received are a scam or an actual communication from the Social Security Administration, beneficiaries are advised to contact their local Social Security office or call the agency at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). According to First Orion, a provider of phone call and data transparency solutions, nearly half of all calls to mobile phones are expected to be fraudulent in one way or another in 2019 meaning these types of scams are not expected to go away anytime soon.
Although it may seem unlikely to some of us that these very low tech schemes may actually work, the truth is that many Social Security beneficiaries of how protocols work and comply with the requests out of fear that they may lose their vital benefits. Every person, young and old, is susceptible to phone scams using one type of tactic or another and the ever changing schemes that criminals are using, all of us need to be vigilant to the threat of identity theft from these types of fraud and deceit.