April 17, 2019 — The Nationwide wave of Social Security imposter scams has reached Tom Green County.
Claiming to be a government authority is a tried and true way that scammers trick people, often senior citizens, into sending money. Among the most common government imposters have been scammers pretending to be agents from the IRS – until now.
In the past few months, the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network database has seen Social Security Administration (SSA) imposter reports skyrocket while reports of IRS imposters have declined sharply. In other words, the SSA scam is the new IRS scam. Locally, two senior victims were scammed out of $9K and $2K.
The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning citizens about a caller-ID “spoofing” scheme misusing the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) Fraud Hotline phone number. The OIG has received recent reports of phone calls displaying the Fraud Hotline number on a caller-ID screen. This is a scam; OIG employees do not place outgoing calls from the Fraud Hotline 800 number. Citizens should not engage with these calls, provide personal information, or send money to the caller via pre-paid gift or Visa cards.
How the scam works:
These scammers often use robocalls to reach people, and the message is hard to ignore. SSA imposters tell you your Social Security number has been “suspended” because of suspicious activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime. You may be told to “press 1” to speak to a government “support representative” for help reactivating your Social Security number. With such deception, these scammers are good at convincing people to give up their Social Security numbers and other personal information. They ask you to confirm your Social Security number, or they may say you need to withdraw money from the bank and to store it on gift cards or in other unusual ways for “safekeeping.” You may be told your accounts will be seized or frozen if you don’t act quickly.
The SSA will not contact you out of the blue and they will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time. You can always call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213 to find out if SSA is really trying to reach you and why.
If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA or OIG, you should report that information to the OIG online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report or by calling (800) 269-0271, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time. You can also report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission through a new site specific to Social Security scams: https://identitytheft.gov/ssa