Our most recent Consumer Pulse revealed digital fraud has risen significantly in the last year. In fact, since March of 2020, reports of digital fraud have increased 73%. One popular scheme involves fraudsters impersonating Social Security Administration (SSA) employees to try to trick you into revealing your valuable personal information or trying to get you to pay them for a made-up violation. They may threaten or demand immediate payment to avoid legal action. The SSA stated they received almost 700,000 allegations of Social Security scams carried out by calls, emails, text messages or mail. Below we explain how to avoid these scams, how to report them and what to do if you accidentally fall victim.
Getting a call from someone you believe to be a government representative can seem intimidating, especially if there are threats of legal action. It’s important to know Social Security Administration employees will never request information by phone call or text message. They’ll also never request payments over the phone. According to Gail Ennis, the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, “If you ever owe money to Social Security, the agency will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights. Social Security does not suspend Social Security numbers or demand secrecy from you in resolving a problem—ever.”
Of course, scammers don’t limit their schemes to phone calls. They may try texts or emails as well. Be on guard for phishing scams, which can include attempts to get your valuable personal information through official-looking but phony websites and emails. An easy way to know it’s a scam is if they request gift cards or pre-paid debit cards as payment.
If you believe a phone call is from someone impersonating an SSA employee, you should hang up immediately. It's important to report Social Security fraud and attempted scams. Reporting these attempts can help the SSA better understand the frequency and tactics of these fraudsters so they can guide and protect others. The SSA takes these scams seriously and your report may assist them as they investigate and persecute the perpetrators. If you mistakenly provided your personal information to the fraudsters, you’ll also want to take appropriate identity theft recovery steps.
If your Social Security number has been compromised, we’ve put together a list of steps to take if you’ve been the victim of identity theft. This list includes filing an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), taking action to protect your credit report and contacting your local police. If you’ve been the victim of a Social Security scam and paid the scammers using a gift card, you will want to call the issuer of that card immediately. In some instances, if you act quickly, they may be able to refund your money. The FTC has a useful guide for what to do in these situations.
As fraudsters continue to vary their tactics and use more sophisticated techniques, it’s important to remain vigilant to protect your data identity. Be cautious when giving out personal information online and make sure to consistently monitor your credit reports. Doing so can help you spot any suspicious activity and respond to potential identity theft in a timely manner. To help, consider a paid subscription to a product like TransUnion Credit Monitoring. With TransUnion Credit Monitoring, you can get email alerts whenever there are changes to any of your accounts or when your report is pulled for a new line of credit, making it easy for you to stay up to date with your data identity.