Phone scammers will target just about anyone they think they can exploit, and the government is now warning that Social Security recipients are their newest target. This scary scam works a lot like those in the past, with anonymous callers claiming to be employees of the U.S. government, but shortly after you pick up the phone things take a dark turn.
According to the FTC, callers use “spoofed” phone numbers that show up on your caller ID as the official number of the Social Security Administration. The callers identify themselves as Social Security workers and ask you to verify your Social Security number in order to talk about your benefits. If you hand it over, they’ll use it to steal your identity, and might go so far as to create credit card or other accounts in your name.
It’s a very dangerous scam that can damage your credit and leave you scrambling to pick up the pieces, so the FTC is advising you to hang up on anyone identifying themselves as Social Security employees if you have any doubts. You can call the official Social Security Administration number and they will be able to tell you whether or not you were being contacted by a legit caller or not, and walk you through any actions that need to be taken.
Here’s the official advice of the FTC:
• SSA will not threaten you. Real SSA employees will never threaten you to get personal information. They also won’t promise to increase your benefits in exchange for information. If they do, it’s a scam.
• If you have any doubt, hang up and call SSA directly. Call 1-800-772-1213 – that really is the phone number for the Social Security Administration. If you dial that number, you know who you’re getting. But remember that you can’t trust caller ID. If a call comes in from that number, you can’t be sure it’s really SSA calling.
• If you get a spoofed call, report it. If someone calls, claiming to be from SSA and asking for information like your Social Security number, report it to SSA’s Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or https://oig.ssa.gov/report. You can also report these calls to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.