Social Security imposter fraud is on the rise. The number of complaints is exploding:
- 2018 – 15,221 complaints
- 2019 – 478,077 complaints
- 2020 – 718,342 complaints
And these are just the people who call the Social Security fraud line to complain! Many victims are too embarrassed to report the abuse.
It is embarrassing to admit that you have fallen for a scam, but these scammers are good and getting better! They sound official on the phone. The phone caller ID may show “SSA” (Social Security Administration) and the scammer will use the identity of an actual social security employee, with their badge number. The emails also look very impressive, with an accurate SSA header, and no telltale misspellings. Often the emails are a precursor to the calls, and the scammers are experts at emotional manipulation. They will also try to get at you through text messages.
Sometimes they falsely claim that: your assets are frozen, your social security number has been stolen, or that your SSA number has been suspended because of suspicious activity. There is always a sense of urgency to these calls, and eventually a demand for payment – often through a gift card or a bitcoin ATM, or a transfer from your bank account.
This is the point where many people realize the call is not on the up and up, but they still may have revealed their social security number or other personal information to the scammer. When they are convinced to send money, it adds up – a reported $45 million in 2020 alone.
The Social Security Administration has tips for citizens at https://www.ssa.gov/scam/. They include:
- If you receive a suspicious call, hang up.
- Do not return unknown phone calls, emails, or texts.
- SSA representatives will not threaten you or demand immediate action.
- Report suspicious activity to https://oig.ssa.gov/.
Social Security imposter fraud is just one of the scams perpetrated by unsavory entities trying to get your personal information and hard-earned dollars. If you don’t absolutely know who is on the other end of the line, sometimes it is best to not pick up the call.