Slam the Scam with the United States Social Security Administration

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As our world becomes increasingly digital, we are welcomed to many new opportunities and possibilities. Unfortunately, so are scammers. In this developing battle, a best practice is to stay well-informed. The Social Security Administration sees this struggle and is here to help.

The Social Security Administration and its Office of the Inspector General have published educational material branded, Slam the Scam, to aid citizens in identifying scam attempts and what the appropriate steps are following an attack. The material, found on the Social Security Administration website, provides a trusted source of currently used scam tactics, tips to identify the red flags of scams, and what to do if you think you are being scammed.

The SSA informs us that Social Security related scams are carried out by criminals who impersonate SSA and other government agencies in an attempt to obtain personal information or money. Scammers will try any means necessary to try to fool their victims. Impersonation calls, emails, letters, and social media have all been reported and are frequently used by scammers to carry out their attacks. Scammers will go so far as impersonating real government personnel in their attempts. 

To know if the contact you’ve received is legitimate, it is important to know what the SSA will ask of you and notably, what they will not ask of you. Social security does indeed contact the public by telephone and mail for business purposes. A valid call may come pertaining to certain events, such as: a recent application to benefits, outreach regarding benefits updates, or as a return call request by a citizen. Mail is a common means of contact when there is a discrepancy with a person’s Social Security Number on record. However, this too, can be abused by scammers. Scammers may send out false documents or requests claiming to be from the SSA. You can always call your local SSA office to confirm the validity and contents of mailed communications. 

A compiled list of things that Social Security will not do or ask of you are as follows: Social Security will never threaten legal action because you do not agree to immediate payment. They will never suspend your Social Security Number or seize your bank account. They will never require personal information or payment for benefit increases. They will never demand secrecy, pressure you to take immediate action, including sharing personal information. They will never ask you to pay via uncustomary means. They will never offer to move your money to “protected” bank accounts. Lastly, Social Security will never request personal information through social media, as these channels are not secure. 

The SSA does have a presence on social media. To view the list of official social media channels, visit SSA – Social Media. These are the only assured accounts. Imposter social media accounts can be tricky to identify if they are not cross-referenced to the above list but may be identified due to the number of followers, incorrect punctuation or spelling, links to pages not formatted with, the use of forms other than SSA documents, and absence of the Verified badge on various channels which support that feature.

In addition to organization and/or personnel impersonation, signs of a scam attempt may include pressure and a false sense of urgency, imposed by a manufactured “urgent problem” or even luring using “a prize”. Payment requests in uncustomary ways, including but not limited to bitcoin, gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and wire transfers are also major red flags of a scam attempt. If a request seems questionable, it is important to verify by contacting the SSA, yourself, directly.

Reporting a scam can not only protect your identity and assets but can provide SSA with gathering powerful data that is used to inform others, identify trends, refine strategies, and take legal action against the criminals behind these scam activities. Report scams to SSA using the SSA Scam Reporting Form or via US govt at US Govt Where to Report Scams

Recovering from a scam can be a long and difficult process. Here are some reminders and courses of action provided by the SSA. First of all, do not blame yourself. Criminal behavior is not your fault. Stop all contact with the scammer. Do not talk to them or respond to their messages. Notify the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to add a fraud alert to your credit report. Protect your Social Security Number and request a replacement SSN card or new SSN, if necessary. To learn more, the Federal Trade Commission’s “What To Do if You Were Scammed” article has information about what to do if you paid someone you think is a scammer or gave a scammer your personal information or access to your computer or phone.        

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission provides assistance in multiple languages. The Federal Trade Commission’s “New Help for Spotting, Avoiding, and Reporting Scams in Multiple Language” and “Consumer Education in Multiple Languages” has information about reporting and avoiding scams in your preferred language. Scams are an unfortunate truth but with awareness, education, and resources, you can create a strong defense.