Spot the scam: Watch out for calls pretending to be from Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration has been receiving reports about scammers pretending to be employees of the agency. Here’s how to recognize these fake calls and how to prevent being scammed.

The automated call goes something like this: “The reason of this call is to inform you that your Social Security number has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity. If you do not contact us immediately, your account will be deactivated. For more information about this case file, press 1, or call our department number …”

The number on the caller ID might show a Social Security Administration number, but the call is not from the administration.

Social Security states it may place calls to you in some circumstances, but only if you already have some kind of business underway with the agency.

“If you receive a call and are not expecting one, you must be extra careful. You can always get the caller’s information, hang up, and contact the official phone number of the business or agency the caller claims to represent. Do not reveal personal data to a stranger who calls you,” Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said in a news release.

The Federal Trade Commission has the following advice to help protect yourself:

  • Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for credit card numbers or personal information.
  • Realize that government agencies don’t call making threats or promises — and they don’t demand money. Scammers do.
  • Don’t trust caller ID that can be spoofed to show legitimate numbers. Even if a call looks real, don’t trust it.
  • It’s always a scam if someone demands you make a payment with a gift card or a wire transfer.

When in doubt, check it out. Check with the real agency, look up its number, and then call to find out whether and why it might be trying to reach you.

The FTC states only 6% of people who reported government impostors say they lost money, and in those cases, the median amount of money lost was $960.

An evaluation of rip-offs from January 2014 through May 2019 also showed that people 20 to 59 years old reported losing money to these scams at higher rates than people 60 years old and older.

But the median amount of money people reported losing increases with age: People 80 years old and older report a median loss of $2,700.

You can report scam calls to the FTC online.

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