What to do if you receive a call or email from the Social Security Administration asking for money or personal information
First, do not be fooled if you receive such a communication from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA will not call you or email you and ask for anything. However, it is a very common scam to receive a call or email from scammers who state they are from SSA and attempt to defraud people. Normally, the SSA will only communicate in hard copy mail. Yes, snail mail through the United States Postal Service. Therefore, if you receive a suspicious call, hang up! Do not give the caller either money or personal data. Then you can report the call and the number to www.oig.ssa.gov.
Here are the most common red flags to look out for regarding scams claiming to be from SSA: 1) The communication states there is a problem with your social security number or your account. 2) Someone is asking you to pay a fine or debt with credit cards, retail gift cards, wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, online currency or by mailing cash. 3) Callers threaten you with arrest or other legal action. 4) Scammers may also pretend they are from another government agency. It is important to remember that caller ID’s and documents sent by mail may look official but could very well be a scam. These are sent in advance of some of these scam contacts to help make them look official.
Please know that the SSA will never do any of the above. They may call you in certain situations, but never will they threaten you, suspend you social security number, demand an immediate payment from you, require cash payments or payments by credit card, wire transfer, ask for gift cards as payments or ask you to mail cash.
The most common reason for the SSA to call is returning a call after you have already been in communication regarding an ongoing issue. It is highly unlikely for the SSA to initiate a phone call and anyone should be skeptical. If this happens you should refuse to give out personal information. In fact, a good step to take would be to tell that caller you will call them back on the main number to verify. If the caller argues against this, hang up without giving them anything at all and report the call to www.oig.ssa.gov. Or simply hang up and report it if that is more comfortable for you.
To protect yourself, make sure to speak with a trusted person to help you verify the veracity of the situation. This advocate could be another family member, a clergy member, professionals such as your accountant, an attorney or financial advisor. The important thing to do is to stay vigilant and verify before giving any information or payment. Until we talk again, be well.
Note that Assemblyman Jim Cooper’s office is co-hosting along with the Contractors State Licensing Board, a “Senior Scam Stopper” to be held at the LOEL Center in Lodi on February 12, 2020 between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Some helpful sites: www.oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/scam-awareness , www.annualcreditreport.com , www.indentitytheft.gov , www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount , https://secure.ssa.gov/acu/IPS_/blockaccess .