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What You Need to Know About Social Security Scams

Scary Hacker

By Mike Batista, AARP Montana

Common Social Security Scams

Social Security numbers are key to identity theft. And what better way to get someone’s Social Security number than by pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

A common scam involves someone posing as an SSA representative contacting you about a supposed problem with your Social Security number—for example, that your number has been linked to criminal activity and suspended. They ask you to confirm your number so they can reactivate it or claim they can issue you a new one for a fee.

Or an imposter may contact you to “activate” your cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), claiming you must pay a fee or verify your name, date of birth and Social Security number to receive an increase in benefits.

These are lies: The SSA does not suspend Social Security numbers, and COLAs are applied automatically to your benefit payment.

Once scammers have your identifying information, they can ask the SSA to change the address, phone number and direct deposit information on your record, thus diverting your Social Security payments.

How do scammers contact people?

Robocalls are the most common way scammers reach out, often threatening to seize your bank account due to illicit activity supposedly tied to your Social Security number or offering to help transfer your money for safekeeping. Impostors also reach out via phishing emails, texts, social media messages and paper mail.

To feign legitimacy, some use the real names of Social Security officials, recite “badge numbers,” or stamp mailings with phony SSA letterhead. They may even send you counterfeit versions of credentials to “prove” they’re on genuine Social Security business.

Telltale signs of a scam

A large-scale, multifaceted effort by the government to spread the word about these scammers—and stop them—includes warnings about tell-tale signs of a Social Security scam. If someone contacts you claiming to be from Social Security, you can be sure it’s a scam if they:

  • Threaten to suspend your Social Security number.
  • Warn of arrest or other legal action.
  • Demand secrecy.
  • Pressure you to take immediate action, such as making a payment or providing personal information, to avoid consequences.
  • Ask for payment by gift card, prepaid debit card, cryptocurrency or by mailing cash.
  • Threaten to seize your bank account.
  • Offer to move your money to a “protected” account.
  • Promise to increase your Social Security benefit if you provide personal information.
  • Direct message you on social media.

The real Social Security Administration will never do any of these things.

What should you do if you spot a scam? If you are targeted by a Social Security scam, report it to the SSA’s Office of Inspector General at and the Federal Trade Commission at MSN

Mike Batista leads the advocacy efforts for AARP Montana.

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