There’s a scary new phone scam out there.
In this latest scheme, criminal callers looking to steal your identity pretend to be from the Social Security Administration in an effort to get your Social Security number and banking information.
This telephone impersonation scheme is happening across the country, according to the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General.
“We urge you to always be cautious and to avoid providing sensitive information such as your Social Security number or bank account information to unknown people over the phone or Internet,” said Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill in a news release. “If you receive a call and are not expecting one, you must be extra careful… Do not reveal personal data to a stranger who calls you.”
People who have received one of these scam calls say the fraudsters are very convincing. They provide their supposed name and ID number. They know your name and what city you live in. Next, they’ll ask you for the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you decline, they seem understanding, even encouraging you to look up the ID information they provided with the Social Security Administration.
Then they tell you something that would make any person afraid – that your Social Security number has been suspended. Yikes.
But Social Security numbers don’t get suspended. There’s just no such thing. What’s more, the government does not randomly call people. They will never request money over the phone, they won’t give you money over the phone, and they sure as heck won’t threaten you over the phone if you are unwilling to provide your info.
Phone (and internet) scammers are constantly upping their game. Just last year, more than 35,000 people complained about fake Social Security-related calls, according to the FTC. These folks lost $10 million. We have to be more vigilant than ever when we receive a call from anyone we don’t know, especially if they ask us for sensitive information.
And, if you do receive one of these calls and want to know if it is, indeed, legitimate, you could get the caller’s information, hang up, and contact the official phone number of the business or agency the caller claims to represent. In the case of the Social Security Administration, that number is 1-800-772-1213.
If you get a scam call, report the fraud to the Office of the Inspector General. The office will ask for a description of the fraud, so make sure you get the caller’s alleged name, number, the information they requested and the time and date of the call. All of these details are helpful.
When your phone rings and you don’t recognize the number, you can either let it go to voicemail (if it’s someone real, they’ll leave a message), or you just keep your guard up and remember to never, ever give out your personal info to someone who calls you. In our modern world of phone scams, it’s better to be safe than sorry.