Unfortunately, there always seem to be crooks who are trying to put something over on us and take our money. While anyone can be a target for such scam artists, seniors are often among the most vulnerable.
Social Security has recently issued a warning about several scams that have surfaced throughout the United States. Our agency has received many reports about telephone calls or visits from people who falsely claim to be Social Security employees. In each case, the person attempted to obtain personal information, such as a Social Security or bank account number, from the Social Security recipient.
The scam artists who identify themselves as Social Security employees have used a variety of approaches to get personal information. In one case, a caller said that Social Security was experiencing a power outage and needed to verify the person=s information. In another, the caller posed as an employee who needed to verify the person direct deposit information.
In a third scam, Social Security recipients were told that their monthly benefit payments were being cut because they have inherited a house from a relative – an event which, by the way, would not result in a reduction of Social Security benefits. To help make the fraud seem authentic, the caller then placed the person on hold and played the same on-hold recordings used by Social Security. When the caller got back on the line, the recipients were then told that proceeds from the sale of the house will be sent to them if they pay the back taxes.
Basically, we advise you to always take precautions when giving out personal information. You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the contact, or are confident of the person to whom you are speaking. If in doubt, do not release information without first verifying the validity of the call.
Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart, has said that she finds it very troubling that our most vulnerable citizens are being targeted by these unscrupulous people. I caution everyone to be extremely careful about releasing personal information. If there is any doubt at all about someone who claims to be a Social Security representative, we recommend contacting your local Social Security office or calling Social Security toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the legitimacy of the call. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)
In the meantime, our Office of Inspector General (OIG) is working closely with other Social Security officials to investigate all reports of suspicious activity. To report suspicious activity, please call the OIG Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the OIG TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.) A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available online at the OIG website: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/.