The AARP Fraud Watch Network now has had more complaints to its helpline in the past few months from consumers targeted by Social Security impostors than the old IRS scam.
Watch out, the Social Security scam is looking like the new IRS scam.
Crooks increasingly are impersonating an official from the Social Security Administration, making harassing calls similar to the annoying Internal Revenue Service calls.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network now has had more complaints to its helpline in the past few months from consumers targeted by Social Security impostors than the old IRS scam, according to Amy Nofziger, AARP fraud expert.
Maybe it should not be surprising, especially after some successful crackdowns on the widespread IRS impersonation scam. The IRS impostor scam — which began heating up in late 2013 — enabled scammers to steal more than $73.6 million from 14,958 victims over time through late November 2018, according to the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
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Make no mistake, scam calls aren’t going away. Nearly half of all calls to mobile phones are expected to be fraudulent in one way or another in 2019, according to First Orion, a provider of phone call and data transparency solutions.
Now, retirees and others need to be aware that fake phone calls could be from someone pretending to be from Social Security, too.
“The scammers are constantly changing their tactics,” Nofziger said. “Perhaps, they’ve just changed their script.”
Scammers are getting ahead for two reasons: technology and tactics.
Crooks have the ability to spoof caller IDs to make it look like you’re being contacted by a legitimate source. In addition, they have access to robocall technology to make millions of calls. They can just keep calling and calling until they get someone to pay up or hand over personal information.
In the Social Security scam, they’re spoofing the 800-number for the Social Security Administration.
In some cases, con artists have demanded that the consumer put hundreds of dollars on gift cards in order to obtain a new Medicare card, which is free.
In other cases, crooks suggest that somehow you’re going to lose benefits and demand personal information to keep them.
Everyone — ranging from college students to retirees — can be tricked into thinking that somehow they made some big mistake with their taxes.
Social Security can trigger similar trepidation.
Frankly, it’s hard to imagine any retiree who wouldn’t get rattled by a robocall leaving this message: “We had to suspend your Social Security number for suspicious activity, press one to continue.”
Lose benefits? It’s a threat that many feel they cannot afford to ignore. About 63 million Americans received $1 trillion in Social Security benefits in 2018.
Some clues to the Social Security scams:
Sometimes, the number on your caller ID can show up as 800-772-1213. It’s a legitimate number but that doesn’t mean the call isn’t from a scammer. If someone asks for information to make sure that you get a bigger Social Security check each month, it’s a fraud.
Social Security also isn’t going to call and threaten that your benefits will be terminated.
Some crooks claim that the Social Security computers are down and they need you to help to provide some information. A huge red flag — Social Security already has your number and won’t be calling to ask you to hand it over to them.
If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from the Social Security Administration, you should report that information to the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security at 800-269-0271. Or you can make a fraud report online at oig.ssa.gov/report.