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Social Security Scams: What to Look For and How to Avoid Them

Phone scams targeting seniors are unfortunately not uncommon, but new Social Security scams are being reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at alarming rates. And even more frightening, they’re not just targeting seniors this time.

Social Security scams

In most Social Security scams, the caller, posing as a Social Security Administration employee, will tell you your Social Security number has been frozen or connected to a crime. They may threaten to freeze your bank account, seize your funds, and attempt to bully you into making a split-second decision. For example, the caller may also try to convince you that your bank account has been compromised as a result of identity fraud, and that you should transfer large sums of money to gift cards in order to “protect” your money.

Do not believe any of this. The Social Security Administration will never call you, and they will never demand that you send them money over the phone.

The average victim of a Social Security scam reported a loss of $1,500 last year. However, Social Security scams resulted in the loss of about $19 million for last year, with about 76,000 complaints being filed. The frequency of these scams is increasing as well. In the past two months, over 30,000 scams have been reported, resulting in a loss of about $6.7 million.

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The FTC’s tips for avoiding phone scams

  1. Identify imposters. They may pretend to be a friend, family member, government official, charity, or company you do business with, but if they ask you to send them money or reveal any personal information, hang up immediately.
  2. Look up the caller or number. Use a search engine to research the caller’s company or name along with keywords like “review,” complaint,” and “scam.” At the very least, you can search for the phone number along with the word “scam” to see if anyone else has reported it.
  3. Don’t trust your caller ID. Many scammers these days will call you from phone numbers that look local. Some may even call from a number that is very close to yours, or even your phone number exactly. If the phone number looks local but the caller sounds suspicious, hang up and call the number back.
  4. Don’t pay for anything upfront. Some scammers will ask for you to pay in advance for things like a car warranty, mortgage assistance, or taxes and fees for a prize you’ve allegedly won. Never do this. They will take your money and run.
  5. Talk to someone you trust. Before you send someone money, explain the situation to someone you trust. They may pick up on clues and red flags that you missed. If the caller rushes you to make a payment or give them information on the spot, hang up. They’re banking on your panic.
  6. Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone to a recording on the other line that doesn’t sound legitimate, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal. If the call prompts you to press a number to speak to a person, do not do this. Pressing a number or saying anything in response to a question could lead to more calls or an agreement to pay them money.
  7. Sign up for free FTC scam alerts.

If you believe you have identified a scam or are a victim of one, report it to the FTC.

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