Key Point: Most American citizens will eventually collect Social Security, and every American citizen has a Social Security number. Therefore, Social Security scams happen all the time.
There are various flavors of such scams, from identify theft to people illegally continuing to collect the benefits of deceased relatives, to telemarketing schemes in which people claim falsely to work for the Social Security Administration and ask for Social Security numbers.
The Better Business Bureau recently put out a list of things that the SSA will never do, indicating that if someone is doing them, it’s probably a scam.
The Social Security Administration will never “text or email images of an employee’s official government identification; suspend your Social Security number; threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee; require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency or mailing cash; promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment; or send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.”
A recent article published by CT Post described Social Security number theft “a gateway to financial fraud.”
Telephone calls, text messages and email scams aimed at collecting Social Security numbers and other personal information are among the IRS’s recently announced “Dirty Dozen” scams this year. The Social Security Administration’s webpage warning about such scams.
“If there is a problem, we will mail you a letter. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. The latest scam trick of using robocalls or live callers has increased. Fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim there is identity theft or another problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits,” the SSA said on its website in regards to those making phone calls about Social Security numbers. “Scammers may threaten arrest or other legal action, or may offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They often demand payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, internet currency, or mailing cash.”
Those who receive a call they consider “questionable” are advised to contact SSA’s Office of the Inspector General. They are also asked not to be embarrassed if they gave up some information or even were taken in by the scam.
The SSA website also provides a definition of Social Security fraud.
“Generally speaking, fraud involves obtaining something of value through willful misrepresentation,” SSA states. “In the context of the Social Security program, our policy states that fraud exists when a person with intent to defraud makes, or causes to be made, a false statement, or misrepresents, conceals, or fails to disclose a material fact for use in determining rights under the Social Security Act. Information is “material” when it could influence SSA’s determination on entitlement or eligibility to benefits under the Act.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
Do These Things to Keep Your Social Security Number Safe is written by Stephen Silver for nationalinterest.org