What would your reaction be if you answered your phone today and heard this message?
"Your Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious activity."
Social Security scams are surging, tricking people into disclosing financial and personal information to identity thieves. These scams are on the rise because they work.
During just two months – February and March 2019 – consumers submitted 36,000 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. Losses totaled $6.7 million. However, because not everyone reports these crimes, the number of victims is probably far greater.
How the Social Security scam works. You receive a phone call from someone claiming to work for a government agency or law enforcement. This imposter tells you suspicious activity associated with your Social Security number has been identified. The caller might also state that your number has been involved in a crime.
Then what? The caller asks you to confirm your Social Security number, or provide detailed financial or personal information. Thieves have also been known to demand gift cards, after threatening to freeze your accounts. If you refuse to cooperate, you might be threatened with arrest. This scam preys on the anxiety you may feel and your willingness to comply with authority figures. (A variation of this scam starts with a recorded message that requests a call back.)
The steal. Once thieves have your information, they can open credit cards or utility accounts in your name, steal money from your financial accounts, and even use your health insurance for medical treatment.
What’s spoofing? Savvy consumers can fall prey to the Social Security scam because it’s so convincing. Scammers sometimes use caller-ID “spoofing” technology to make the call appear to come from an official government number. Even if the caller’s phone number seems to come from the Social Security Administration, that’s no guarantee the call is legitimate.
How to stay safe. Keep the following tips in mind to protect your identity and finances.
- Don’t share personal information over the phone with anyone you don’t know.
- When in doubt, hang up and call the organization’s official number. The Social Security Administration can be reached at (800) 772-1213.
- Your Social Security number cannot be suspended.
- The Social Security Administration does not threaten to arrest people.
- Gift cards are for gifts; never send them to pay fines or bills, or to settle demands.
Remember, staying informed is your best defense against fraudsters. Use the link below to visit our online Security Center for the latest Security Alerts, news, and tips from CAP COM, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other reputable sources.