Since you are reading this article, it is likely that you or someone you know has received a phone call from the Social Security Administration or someone claiming to be them. But how do you know if the real Social Security will contact you by phone? It can be difficult to fully verify someone’s identity over the phone.
That being said, there are common themes scam calls tend to follow. This article will shed light on some clues to look out for to identify a phone call from a scammer.
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How Social Security Will Contact You
The Social Security Administration may send you a letter in the mail. The letter they send you will usually already contain your Social Security number. This makes sense and is a good way to know if you are dealing with a scammer or not. Social Security already knows your number and there would be no reason for them to ask you to provide them the number.
A scammer might ask you to “verify” the number – this is just a scam to have you provide information. The Social Security Administration is aware of these scams and has an article further explaining how to respond.
It is possible that Social Security will call you in some rare situation. Most of the time, this is because you reached out to them first with the question or a problem. If you have ongoing communication with Social Security, it would be reasonable for them to continue this contact through a phone call.
The key here is only a scammer would initiate the first contact – usually through a phone call or e-mail.
How to Know if a Phone Call is a Scam
Don’t rely too much on your caller ID. Scammers might use a practice called spoofing. The caller ID shows whatever the scammer wants it to, including Social Security. You can read more about spoofing in our article about Spam Emails from your Contacts.
As seen often with scammers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they use fear and threatening language as a tactic for compliance. A scammer may threaten to arrest you or have you arrested. They might use the fear of a lawsuit or financial ruin to scare you into complying with their demands.
Also common is to convince you that your Social Security number is or will be suspended. This is not the case as Social Security will not suspend or cancel your number.
It is important to note that a real employee of Social Security will never threaten you. They are after all a government employee subject to agency rules and standards. In addition, often phone calls are recorded and a true employee would understand such behavior would be easily discovered.
Some Tactics Scammers Use When They Call You
Another tactic a scammer may use as opposed to fear is called the ‘carrot on a stick’. They may offer you a reward or state they will increase your Social Security benefits. They may claim you are the victim of identity theft and suggest they will protect your interests and fix the problem.
A Social Security employee will never ask for personal information – they already have it. A real employee will never demand you pay them immediately. A scammer works fast. They want to get money from people as quickly as possible to reduce the chances their potential victim will change their mind or catch on to the scheme.
Once the scammer hits resistance they will break contact and move on to their next target.
Social Security has no interest in rushing you into a high-pressure situation and collecting payment instantly. If you have to contact them later after you let them know you will consult with an attorney or the police, it will not be a problem.
For a scammer, the mention of the police or contacting an attorney, family member, or anyone else will make them try to stop you or will scare them away. Let’s talk about the ways scammers try to get people to send them money.
How Scammers Steal Your Money Over the Phone
Gift cards and wire transfers are the two crown jewels of the scammer. They also often ask for pre-paid debit cards, e-currency such as Bitcoin, or cash through the mail.
One of the reasons for this is the limited paper trail these transactions leave behind. When these crimes are investigated, instead of searching for fingerprints or DNA, records and account information is the primary evidence.
Another reason these methods are used is the difficulty of recovering the stolen money once the scam is discovered. Social Security will never ask for payment through the use of any of these methods.
What do you do when you are not sure if a call is a scam or not. I would suggest that you ask a close friend or family member that you trust for guidance. Scammers usually try to isolate their victims by keeping them on the phone and telling them not to speak with anyone or the police.
Asking someone you know for advice before making a substantial financial transaction is always a good idea.
Who You Call if You Get a Scam Phone Call
If you have received a suspicious call that just did not sound right, these calls can be reported to the Office of the Inspector General. While it can be important to report such calls, do not expect too much to happen from there.
These calls are tracked mostly for statistical purposes and it is highly unlikely the scammer who called you would be tracked especially if you did not suffer a financial loss.
What to Do When a Scammer Calls You
From here on out, should you answer the phone and receive a similar scam call, it is important to hang up right away. From my experience, it is highly unusual for the same scammer to contact you more than once.
Make it clear that you are aware it is a scam and you will be contacting the police. This usually prevents them from calling back later as they move on to their next target.
One reason they would call back is if they believe they are making progress and you give them a reason to believe you will follow through with their requests.
If you provide personally-identifying information over the phone, do not be embarrassed. Personal information includes your name, date of birth, social security number, and other information. These scammers have a lot of experience and they would not continue their schemes if they did not work.
You are not alone. If you were scammed out of money of any amount, again you are not alone. Scammers make a living from stealing other people’s money and they will continue making calls until they are successful.
If a Scammer Steals Your Money or Information:
In the event you did provide money or your identity, it is important to contact your local police department without delay.
The longer you wait, the less likely there will be a successful investigation. Surveillance tapes are overwritten, memories fade, and priorities change over time. When you do call, it is recommended you have some basic information ready such as account name and numbers, the phone number that called, dates and times, and any details you can remember.
Social Security will not contact you by phone. Most phone calls of this nature are from scammers who want to steal your personal information. If there is an issue where Social Security has to contact you, they will mail you a letter.
You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than receiving a legitimate phone call from the Social Security Administration.
On the very small chance, there is an issue with your account (which is rare), they will mail a letter. After reading this article, I hope you now know if social security will contact you by phone.
This is not a topic that is brought up frequently during the normal course of conversation in most circles. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the time or the right words. This is especially true when speaking with your parents or the elderly. However, this information is crucial to keep them safe and happy.
My last piece of advice on this topic is to share this information with family, friends, and anyone you care about. So please speak up and share.
Also, check our other articles in our Blog to learn how to avoid other scams. Thank you.