An Echo Press Editorial: New alert about an old scam
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
It’s the scam that keeps ripping people off – callers posing as Social Security employees.
The Social Security Administration and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) continue to raise public awareness about the scheme, even designating a special “Slam the Scam Day” on March 9.
The impostors pressure victims into making cash or gift card payments to fix alleged Social Security number problems. They often threaten their victims, saying that they must make a payment in order to avoid getting arrested.
For several years, Social Security impersonation scams have been one of the most common government impostor scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Social Security has taken extra steps to address the scam through outreach and investigative initiatives.
The efforts, thankfully, have made a difference, reducing the amount of money reported lost to Social Security scams by 30% from 2021 to 2022.
“I am proud of the work we have done to combat Social Security impostor scams and raise public awareness,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of Social Security, in a news release last week. “We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect the public and their critical benefits. We urge Americans to remain vigilant, do not give out personal information or money, and report any scam attempts.”
Scammers use sophisticated tactics to trick potential victims into disclosing personal and financial information. Here’s how it works: Scammers pretend they are from the Social Security Administration in phone calls or emails and claim there is a problem with the person’s Social Security number. The scammer’s caller ID may be spoofed to look like a legitimate government number.
Scammers may also send fake documents to pressure people into complying with demands for information or money. Other common tactics include citing “badge numbers” and using a fraudulent Social Security letterhead to target individuals for payment or personal information.
Here’s the key thing to remember: legitimate Social Security employees will NEVER:
- Tell you your Social Security number is suspended.
- Contact you to demand an immediate payment.
- Threaten you with arrest.
- Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Request gift cards or cash.
- Promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information or money.
Social Security employees do contact the public by telephone for business purposes. Ordinarily, the agency calls people who have recently applied for a Social Security benefit, are already receiving payments and require an update to their record, or have requested a phone call from the agency. If there is a problem with a person’s Social Security number or record, Social Security will typically mail a letter.
The impostors can sound convincing. They’ve been known to use legitimate names of Office of Inspector General or Social Security Administration employees. They send official-looking documents by U.S. mail or attachments through email, text, or social media messages.
It is illegal to reproduce federal employee credentials and federal law enforcement badges. Federal law enforcement will never send photographs of credentials or badges to demand any kind of payment, and neither will federal government employees, according to the Social Security Administration.
The agency’s advice to consumers: Quickly hang up the phone – or delete suspicious texts and emails – without responding to the scammers. That is the easiest and most effective way to avoid falling prey to these kinds of tactics.
To report a scam attempt, go to oig.ssa.gov . For more information, visit www.ssa.gov/scam and www.ssa.gov/fraud .