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July 12, 2019 | Posted in:

Watch Out for the Latest Social Security Scam

Beware of this Fraud Attempt

Scammers are back at it this summer, trying to lure confidential information from unsuspecting individual and taxpayers. The IRS has recently issued a consumer alert due to the most recent hoax: Fraudsters pretending to be calling from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Innocent callers are reporting threatening phone calls from unknown numbers claiming that the SSA will suspend or block the caller’s Social Security number or benefits due to suspicious criminal activity unless immediate action is taken. The scammer’s goal is to get the caller to wire money or send gift cards to cover up the supposed criminal activity or to “reactivate” the SSN. Some variations of the calls try to trick the caller into revealing their SSN so the scammers can go on to open credit or do other financial harm.

As convincing or urgent as the phone conversation or voicemail may seem, know that the SSA or IRS will never call you to ask for your confidential information, especially if you don’t have an open or ongoing case with them. In addition, the SSA will never call to threaten you or your benefits. Have your guard up at all times and err on the side of caution.

 

Takeaways from the Social Security Scam

  • Educate your parents and senior citizens. Since many seniors rely on Social Security Income (SSI), they are an easy target of scammers since the idea of losing your SSI can be a scary possibility.
  • Don’t trust the caller ID. The phone numbers often spoof your local area code. If there’s any doubt that the caller is from a real agency and not an imposter, hang up and call a trusted, official phone number of the agency.
  • Questionable form of payment. The police or a government agency will never ask you for payment by way of gift cards or to wire cash. This is one of the biggest red flags that your conversation is a fraud attempt.
  • Don’t panic: The police are not on their way. The scammers can be aggressive and frighteningly convincing, but don’t worry about hand cuffs just yet. SSA’s employees will not send the police to your home, threaten to have you arrested, or issue a warrant for your arrest.
  • What if you’ve fallen victim to the scam? If the caller is verifying your SSN and reading your number to you or if you’ve already sent money or gift cards to the scammer and realized later on that it was fraud, report it to the FTC (https://identitytheft.gov/) and the SSA (https://www.ssa.gov/fraudreport/oig/public_fraud_reporting/form.htm). You may also want to immediately freeze your credit; Turn to Alloy Silverstein’s Identity Theft Defense to protect your future finances.
  • Proactively protect your SSN year-round. Never give your Social Security Number (part or full), bank routing number, or credit card information out over the phone to someone who contacted you out of the blue. Don’t even verify it if the numbers are read aloud to you. Following are some tips to guard your SSN from getting into the wrong hands.

 

How To Protect Your Social Security Number

Very few things in life can create a higher degree of stress than having your Social Security Number (SSN) stolen. This is because, unlike other forms of ID, your SSN is virtually permanent. While most instances of SSN theft are outside your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk of this ever happening to you.

1) Never carry your card.

Place your SSN card in a safe place. That place is never your wallet or purse. Only take the card with you when you need it. Likewise, never use your SSN for online account usernames or passwords.

2) Know who needs it.

As identity theft continues to evolve, there are fewer who really need to know your SSN. Here is that list:

  • The government. The federal and state governments use this number to keep track of your earnings for retirement benefits and to ensure you pay proper taxes.
  • Your employer. The SSN is used to keep track of your wages and withholdings. It also is used to prove citizenship and to contribute to your Social Security and Medicare accounts.
  • Certain financial institutions. Your SSN is used by various financial institutions to prove citizenship, open bank accounts, provide loans, establish other forms of credit, report your credit history or to the IRS, or confirm your identity. In no case should you be required to confirm more than the last four digits of your number.

3) Challenge all other requests.

Many other vendors may ask for your SSN but having it may not be essential. The most common requests come from health care providers and insurance companies, but requests can also come from subscription services when setting up a new account. When asked on a form for your number, leave it blank. If your supplier really needs it, they will ask you for it. This allows you to challenge their request.

4) Destroy and distort documents.

Shred any documents that have your number listed. When providing copies of your tax return to anyone, distort or cover your SSN. Remember, your number is printed on the top of each page of Form 1040. If the government requests your SSN on a check payment, only place the last four digits on the check, and replace the first five digits with Xs. If you need to send information to your accountant, encrypt any documents with your SSN or utilize the CPA firm’s secure client portal.

5) Keep your scammer alert on high.

Never give out any part of the number over the phone or via email. Do not even confirm your SSN to someone who happens to read it back to you on the phone. If this happens to you, file a police report and report the theft to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission. If a caller tells you your number

6) Proactively check for use.

Periodically check your credit reports for potential use of your SSN. If suspicious activity is found, have the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your account. Remember, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year. You can obtain yours on the Annual Credit Report website.

 

Replacing a stolen SSN is not only hard to do, it can create many problems. Your best defense is to stop the theft before it happens.

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