In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network database has seen a dramatic increase in reports involving a variation of a classic scam, to steal identities and money from unwary consumers—and while everyone should be on the alert for any sort of scam, this particular illegal scheme is often targeted more towards senior citizens. The Consumer Sentinel is a unique investigative tool that provides members of the Consumer Sentinel Network—members consist of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies—with access to millions of consumer complaints.
This scam consists of a malicious caller claiming to be from the federal government’s Social Security Administration (SSA), who then attempts using various social engineering tactics, to trick you into revealing sensitive personal information over the phone (this is known as vishing). The fake caller often will try to convince you that your Social Security number has been “suspended” or “compromised” because of some suspicious financial or other activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime, or that you have some outstanding tax payments due. The caller may sound very official and concerned about you, but they are trying to trick you out of personal information and/or money.
The caller impersonating the SSA will ask you to confirm your Social Security number, and they may tell you that you need to withdraw money from the bank and to store it on gift cards, or transfer it or convert it in some other way to make it more secure. They may even claim that the police or some form of law enforcement officers are on their way to arrest you, while you are on the Vishing call, and that the officers will not show up if you comply and provide more personal information such as a credit card number to pay the fine over the phone.
Note that your Social Security number can never be suspended; it is assigned to you by the federal government, and except for very unusual circumstances, should be active and permanent throughout your lifetime.
Never give out or confirm confidential identity or financial information over the phone, on personal or work email or on a website until you can verify whoever is asking you for it. Be vigilant, be cautious and do not rush into any action. Use caution whenever you take any out of the ordinary actions involving money transfers or converting it into another form of payment, such as a gift card, wire transfer or some other type of electronic payment. Keep in mind that the government—including the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the military and other branches and departments—usually contacts citizens by U.S. postal mail rather than emailing or calling you. You can also call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213 to find out if the SSA is trying to reach you and the validity of the contact attempt.
If you have senior loved ones—either family or friends—who could be targeted by this Social Security number fraud, we hope that you’ll share some of the information in this post with them. You can help educate senior loved ones about avoiding these scams and how to react if they’re contacted by imposters posing as SSA employees.
If someone tries to steal your personal information by pretending to be from the U.S. government, you should report the details to the Federal Trade Commission. If you have given out information, and believe that one or more of your financial accounts is, or may be, compromised, contact your financial institution immediately to report the fraud. Delta Community members may contact our Member Care Team any time via our toll-free number at 800-544-3328 or locally at 404-715-4725.