The latest scam is the suspended Social Security number scam. It starts with a phone call where the caller ID spoofs a number of the Social Security Administration. A professional-sounding voice tells the victim that his or her Social Security number has been suspended due to “suspicious activity.” To un-suspend the number, the scammer says the person must be transferred to a Social Security representative. Once transferred, the victim will be asked for personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security number and birthdate, even bank account number and home address in order to “verify” their identity. Typically, the scammer will ask for payment in order to un-suspend the number.
Needless to say, Social Security numbers are never “suspended.” The Social Security Administration will never ask for money. Warn your clients that these calls are happening and that if they get one, they should hang up no matter how nice or professional or authoritative the person sounds.
While many such scams are obvious and the public has been well warned not to give out personal information to anyone they don’t know or trust, actual dealings with Social Security can create confusion in this regard. Some clients may be overly suspicious, afraid to enter their personal information in order to open a My Social Security Account. The irony here is that if a client doesn’t set up an account, someone else may do it first. Here is a case where entering personal information online is a protective measure that can actually help prevent identity theft.
Another cause for skepticism or confusion concerns the application for benefits. Clients who apply online or in person will generally receive a follow-up phone call from their local Social Security office to confirm certain information and ask for documents. Clients may wonder if that phone call is really from SSA. If the client has recently applied, it probably is. But SSA representatives are used to being questioned and they are supportive of this kind of skepticism in order to combat identity theft, so they will give the client a number and extension so the client can call them back. If the client doubts that number, they can always call the main Social Security number: 800-772-1213 (if they don’t mind being on hold for a while.)
SSA’s Office of Inspector General offers these tips on scam awareness.
Understand the threats. Scammers are actively and increasingly using phone calls, emails, and text messages to get people to send money or part with personal information. These communications often look legitimate.
Exercise caution. Build a habit of verifying the identity of anyone who asks for your personal information over the phone, and say you will respond through the entity’s customer service channels. If anyone pressures you to provide information or money over the phone, it’s a scam and you should just hang up.
Secure your information. Store your Social Security card in a secure location; avoid carrying it with you. Shred documents that list personal information such as your Social Security number and banking information. Avoid opening emails from unknown sources or clicking on suspicious hyperlinks. Equip your computing devices with strong anti-virus software and maintain strong passwords. Regularly check your credit reports for suspicious activity.