Social Security Scam Calls from the “Government”

Social Security Scam Calls from the “Government”

If you get a call threatening to “suspend” your Social Security number for alleged illegal activity or an unpaid tax bill just hang up. It’s a scam — every single time.

The IRS has issued a consumer alert recently about an uptick in a scheme in which crooks pretend to be calling from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In fact, a number of government agencies are concerned about what they call “impostor” scams. The goal in this con is either to scare people into revealing personal information or swindling them out of money. With your personal information, identity thieves can do a lot of financial harm. They can apply for credit in your name, open utility or mobile phone accounts or even get medical treatment using your health insurance.

In April, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the SSA issued a fraud advisory warning people about “spoofing” phone calls in which the caller-ID screen displays the agency’s toll-free fraud hotline. But it’s not the agency calling. In May, the OIG posted another advisory about scammer calls this time displaying the Social Security Advisory Board’s telephone number on the caller-ID. To trick people to pick up the phone, crooks also spoof numbers with local area codes to hide their true location. It’s even possible that your neighbors will get a call with your number being used to make them answer.

Here are some variations of the Social Security scheme:

  • You get a robocall stating that there’s been criminal activity linked to your Social Security number. You’re told that if you don’t immediately call the telephone number left on your voicemail your Social Security number will be “suspended.” To “reactivate" it you are instructed that you have to purchase gift cards as a form of payment. Then you are told to call back with the activation codes. Don’t do it!
  • When you answer your phone, there’s an automated recording claiming that your Social Security number has already been “suspended” or “blocked” because it has been linked to some “suspicious” activity. You may be threatened with an arrest warrant or that the police will be sent to your home. To clear up the matter and unblock your number the swindler says you have to pay a fee either by wiring money, using a gift card or loading cash on a prepaid debit card. Again, don’t do it!
  • In this version of the scheme, a person pretends to be from SSA and says you need to verify your Social Security number to clear up some other bogus issue. This time the mission is to just get your information.

Whether it’s a call, text or email, the FTC and the SSA debunk the falsehoods you’ll hear in the Social Security impostor scams:

  • No, your Social Security number cannot be suspended, revoked, frozen or blocked. If anyone tells you that, hang up immediately.
  • No government agencies — not the IRS, SSA or Medicare — will ask you to wire money, send cash or buy gift cards as a form of payment. Never.
  • No, SSA employees would never threaten to have you arrested or send the police to your home.
  • No, you don’t have to verify your Social Security number to someone who makes an unsolicited call to you.
  • Yes, the SSA may call you if you’ve been working with the agency on some issue or claim. But just to make sure it’s truly the SSA calling you back, hang up and call the SSA’s main number at (800) 772-1213.