FTC warns of Social Security scams

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

The Federal Trade Commission and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are warning locals to be wary of a quickly growing scam aimed at allowing criminals to steal Social Security numbers and money.

Through the scam, which is “now growing exponentially,” according to the FTC, callers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration and attempt to obtain personal information from the victim.

“To compare: in 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000,” read a Dec. 27 release from the FTC. “So far (in 2018): more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million.”

During the call or message, scammers claim the victim’s Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or because it’s been involved in a crime, and ask the victim to confirm their Social Security number to reactivate it.

The caller also sometimes claims the victim’s bank account is about to be seized, and asks the victim to put their money on gift cards and giving the caller the codes to keep it safe, “which, of course, means that your money is gone,” read the release.

The scam calls also typically appear to be from the real Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213 phone number, but the callers are spoofing the number.

Anyone who receives a suspected Social Security Administration scam call is encouraged to report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

To combat the scam, the FTC is offering the following tips:

-Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. You don’t have to verify your number to anyone who calls out of the blue. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.

-SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.

-The real SSA number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are putting that number in the caller ID. If you’re worried about what the caller says, hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real SSA. Even if the wait time is long, confirm with the real SSA before responding to one of these calls.

-Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Or your bank account or credit card number.