- Written by John Johnston John Johnston
Andrew Saul, commissioner of Social Security, and the agency continued raising public awareness about telephone impersonation schemes during the Office of the Inspector General’s national “Slam the Scam” Day on March 5.
Social Security and OIG have made concerted efforts to educate the public about these scams — in which fraudulent callers mislead victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for purported Social Security number problems.
As Saul testified to Congress, the agency has taken swift actions, including helping OIG create a dedicated online reporting tool at oig.ssa.gov. Fraud can also be reported by phone at (800) 230-6539.
OIG has also provided people who call the agency with updated information on the scams and how to report them, increased employee and public outreach and education, and established a Social Security/OIG workgroup to maximize resources and ensure a cohesive response.
“It is appalling that scammers are playing on emotions like fear to get people to act without thinking,” Saul said. “Everyone should just hang up, and never give out their personal information. People should go online to oig.ssa.gov to report these Social Security scams.”
Scammers are sophisticated, and there are many variations to this fraud.
For example, a caller may say he is from Social Security and that the person’s Social Security number is suspended or has been used in a crime. The caller identification may be spoofed to appear to originate from a government number.
Fraudsters may text or email fake documents in attempts to get people to comply with their demands. These scams have become the No. 1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security.
Social Security will never tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended, contact you to demand an immediate payment, ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone, ask for gift cards or cash, or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.
Social Security employees do occasionally contact people — generally those who have ongoing business with the agency — by telephone for business purposes.
Typically, the agency calls people who have recently applied for a Social Security benefit, someone who is already receiving payments and requires an update to their record, or a person who has requested a phone call from the agency.
If there is a problem with a person’s Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail a letter.
For more information, please view Social Security’s PSA addressing the telephone impersonation scheme online at www.youtube.com/socialsecurity.
John Johnston is a Social Security public affairs specialist.