You get a phone call from an unknown number, and answer it.
It’s someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. They’re claiming to have found some suspicious activity involving your social security number, yet the only way they can help you is if you share some personal details and information so that they can properly verify your identity.
It seems legit enough, so you comply.
But it’s not legit at all. It’s likely a scam, and the Social Security Administration is the No. 1 government entity that’s often impersonated by scammers. In 2019 alone, fraud losses totaled up to $17 million from scammers pretending to be with the Administration.
The aforementioned is just one example of how an imposter might try to swipe your personal information for their own personal gain. Another common trick is a robocall that informs you that you may have been compromised, and to call a number immediately to set the record straight. Like the example that we listed above, the purpose of such calls is to panic whoever is receiving it into action. Scammers are trying to catch you off guard so that you comply with their wishes instead of taking the time to think about whether or not it’s a good idea.
Though social security scams are among the most popular types of scams that hackers will attempt to make, the good news is that lawmakers are starting to take action on these types of scams. More good news is that if you know what to look for, they’re fairly easy to sniff out yourself.
Let’s start with what our elected officials are doing. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to limit robocalls by mandating cell phone carriers block numbers. Mid-month, two Congressmen — Democrat John Larson of Connecticut and Republican Tom Reed of New York — asked the Social Security Administration to review scam calls that stated they were from the administration. Many people like to gripe that there’s nothing being done in Washington, D.C. right now, but there are bipartisan efforts to help curb the amount of social security fraud that is currently taking place.
Here’s a look at some other things you can take note of to determine the legitimacy of any requests:
- The Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service do not make the kinds of phone calls that are often purported in the robocalls and direct calls unsuspecting consumers receive. If there’s an issue with your tax return, or the IRS or Social Security Administration needs to get ahold of you, they’ll first send you something in the mail.
- Think before you act. We get how terrifying these calls can be and how many consumers, when faced with a problem seemingly so significant, jump at the opportunity to fix it fast and conveniently. We recommend following the “30 minute rule” if you experience something like this. That is, take a little bit of time to think about what you’re facing and maybe contact a trusted family member or advisor for advice. It wouldn’t even hurt to look up some recent scams that are trending to see if what you’re facing actually is one.
- Talk to any elderly family members. Of all the types of fraud, elder fraud remains among the most common. Make sure you speak with any elderly family members to cue them into the types of fraud that they could be targeted with so that they know what to do if they’re ever faced with a scam of this type or any other.
Unfortunately, scammers are a reality in this day and age, and they’re always cooking up new tricks and tactics for ways to dupe unsuspecting Americans. But social security scammers can potentially be even more dangerous, as they’re aiming to get their hands on the nine-digit number that’s so critical to so many aspects of your life. Make sure you know what to do if you’re ever contacted in a manner like we’ve detailed above.