Common Social Security Scams

An overwhelming majority of senior citizens are the recipients of Social Security benefits, as many as 95% in fact. Seniors are also the most vulnerable members of the population, which also makes them a prime target for Social Security scams.

Many Social Security scams that target seniors come in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, and even online chat room scams. The criminals behind these scams will pretend to be law enforcement agents, or even Social Security customer service agents in an effort to steal personal information from the elderly.

In addition to misusing seniors’ Social Security numbers, many will try to scam them out of their Social Security benefits directly. To help you protect yourself against fraud, scams, and other nefarious factions, we have put together a list of the most common Social Security scams this year.

Fake Social Security Emails

Many scammers will try to take advantage of seniors via email through phishing scams. The headers of the email will appear to be from the Social Security Administration and the email address may even be very close to an actual SSA address. The wording will be professional and often have certain fonts and phrases copied directly from legit SSA communications. In these emails, scammers will add a clickable link that appears to lead to the Social Security site.

These links are very dangerous, as some of them will lead you to a clone site that will gather your vital information. They will ask for login passwords, birthdates, and more. The tone may be threatening or friendly depending on the message content, but the point is for you to follow the link and enter your information. Legitimate Social Security communication will never seek any personal information from you and the tone will always be concise and professional.

Threatening Fraudulent Phone Calls

According to the National Council of Aging, last year, one of the top three scams seniors fell victim to were those relating to Social Security benefits. Several years ago, there were 63,000 unique reports of scam Social Security benefits calls which resulted in an average of $1,500 loss per victim. While the number may seem low, keep in mind that most phone scams are never reported.

The majority of these scams involve criminals posing as Social Security Administration reps. Many of these calls will come through a spoofed line so the caller ID actually shows the real SSA hotline number. The caller will often use the name of one of the actual people working at the SSA, typically taken from a public directory.

Callers will use threatening language and scare tactics to coerce Social Security benefit recipients to hand over sensitive information. They will claim that there is some form of fraudulent activity underway and that the senior will face jail time if they don’t call a specific number and follow the directions given.

In most cases, the SSA will not call a Social Security recipient, but if they do, it is usually in response to an issue or activity initiated by the recipient themselves. For example, if you contact the SSA for an update on your account or to replace a card, they may call you back with more information. An SSA rep will never threaten the caller, and in every case will be very patient as they know the advanced age of most Social Security beneficiaries.

Mail Social Security Fraud

Most social security scams occur over the phone or over the internet, but paper mail is equally dangerous. Mail-based Social Security fraud has dramatically reduced with the advent of the internet, but there are still plenty of direct mail scams that target the elderly population.

Many of these letters will have language offering a bonus Social Security payment. To avail of this payment, the senior will need to provide a filing fee, personal information, and even their full social security number. Any mail or even phone call in which a person asks for a full SS number is 100% a scam. No SSA representative will request a senior’s number because it is already listed on file. At most, they will ask to confirm the last 4 digits or only the birth date. In the event that the Social Security office does communicate with you via paper mail, there will never be a request for personal information.

How to Stay Safe from Social Security Fraud

The best way to stay safe from scams is to remain aware of the information being requested and by keeping up to date on current scams. If you ever get an email, phone call, or letter asking for your social security number, bank account number, or other personal information, hang up immediately. You can block the caller’s number to prevent further calls.

Don’t always rely on the ID displayed when someone calls. There are many spoofing programs scammers use to clone the number of the actual SSA or other similar numbers. If in doubt, always hang up and call the SSA office directly. If an actual agent did call you, then you can be reconnected via the main switchboard. When you throw away anything that has your personal information such as your bank account number or social security number on it, make sure to shred or cut up the papers prior to disposal.

Final Thoughts on Social Security Scams

The most common way scammers threaten seniors is by saying that their benefits will be suspended, or even through charging a fee for complimentary services. Beware of anyone who asks for your private information, your full social security number, or asks you to hand over your bank account information. Any incident of attempted scamming should be reported to the FTC, the local police, and the SSA Office. If you are ever in doubt about a suspicious phone call from a person claiming to be a Social Security representative, hang up and call the official SSA helpline. If the call was legitimate, they will be able to route you through to the proper representative. If the call was a spoof or scam, they will be able to take the report and make a note on your file regarding possible fraudulent activities.