Does Social Security Call You?
As with most Social Security scam calls, Kendra Fleischmann was strong-armed into staying on the phone while a scammer drained her bank account.[*]
Purporting to be a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee, the caller claimed that Kendra’s Social Security number (SSN) was now suspended. Even worse, illegal drugs were supposedly seized from a car that someone rented using her SSN.
Flustered, Kendra did exactly as she was instructed — emptied her checking account to purchase Target gift cards worth $4,000. The scammer hung up and disappeared with Kendra’s money as soon as she shared the gift card numbers with him.
These 7 Signs Point to a Social Security Scam Call
In the first half of 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated that phone scams stole $380 million from Americans.[*] Most of these Social Security scam calls share seven common warning signs:
- SSA representatives calling out of the blue
- SSA contact at strange times or on weekends
- Promises of easy grant money
- Claims of problems or criminal activity related to your SSN
- Callers making aggressive threats
- Demands for immediate payments
- Doctored credentials
1. SSA representatives calling out of the blue
Fraudsters spoof caller IDs to make it seem like they are calling from the SSA’s official phone number: 1-800-772-1213.
Whether it’s a robocall or live caller, this scam usually involves some fabricated claim about issues with your SSN, Social Security account, or benefits.
An unsolicited phone call or robocall from someone claiming to be an SSA employee is a red flag. The SSA will not contact you by phone to discuss Social Security benefits or problems with your SSN. All such communications will take place via certified mail.
2. Calls at strange times or on weekends
SSA scammers sometimes call victims on weekends, federal holidays, or outside work hours, hoping to catch people off guard.
The SSA office hours are Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm (local time). If you receive calls outside these hours from someone claiming to be an SSA employee, proceed with extreme caution.
3. Promises of easy grant money
SSA imposters will fabricate stories about phony benefits, unclaimed grants, or cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). As they lure you with promises of additional benefits, imposters will try to steal your personally identifiable information (PII).
This could include your SSN, Medicare number, credit card information, or banking details. If someone requests this information over the phone, refuse them and hang up.
4. Claims of criminal activity related to your SSN
Beware of any caller who makes claims of serious criminal charges and impending legal action related to your SSN. The scam could also take the shape of robocalls enforcing callbacks. These are the hallmarks of SSA imposter calls.
In these types of phone scams you may be instructed to purchase gift cards as payments to “reactivate” your SSN. However, the SSA will not block, suspend, revoke, or freeze anyone's SSN.
Do not share personal information or confirm your Social Security number with any caller who tells you about alleged criminal activity linked to your card.
5. Callers threatening arrests or police visits
Some scammers take the above plot a step further by trying to intimidate, scare, or threaten you into sharing information. Scammers may "transfer" calls to other criminals who pose as law enforcement to scare victims into thinking they're in legal trouble.
By creating a sense of urgency and instilling fear in victims, scammers can induce their targets to do what they want. An actual SSA representative will never threaten you or become aggressive over the phone.
6. Demands for immediate payments
Most often with a Social Security scam call, the imposter's goal is to fleece you.
Some fraudsters will be subtle in their approach, gently building trust before persuading you to disclose sensitive information that they can use for various types of identity theft.
Other scam callers may be more direct in their attempted robbery. Any request for immediate payment is a clear warning sign that you’re talking to a scammer.
The SSA will never request payment over the phone or ask you to transfer money via internet currency, gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfers.
7. Doctored credentials
Impersonators tend to use fake credentials or badges to appear legitimate. Fraudsters may even send scam emails that contain copies of official-looking documents, complete with SSA letterheads and stamps.
Doctored credentials have been tricking innocent victims so much so that several federal agencies joined forces this past June to issue a scam alert.[*]
Always remember that photocopies of identification badges and official documents are not to be trusted.
Nobody in federal law enforcement will send photographs of their credentials to demand any form of payment.
Here Are a Few Cases When the SSA Will Contact You
- If you’ve opted to receive communications. In rare instances, the SSA does notify people by certified mail. However, the SSA does not issue notices or updates through email, calls, or texts unless you have opted in via your online my Social Security account. You can unsubscribe from these updates at any time.
- If you request a callback or have a benefit claim. You may get a callback from an SSA employee assisting you whenever you contact the SSA or have an ongoing benefit claim or application.
- For customer service purposes. The SSA may call you for customer service purposes at your request. The representative calling should provide a number and extension, abiding by strict SSA customer service policies.
- When you access your my Social Security account. When you create your my Social Security account, you will receive a text message or email to confirm your identity. Each time you log into your account, the SSA will send a verification email or text message to authenticate access.
- If you owe money to Social Security. If the SSA overpays your benefits, they will mail a Notice of Overpayment or notify you through your my Social Security account — but they will never demand payment on the phone. If you receive a Notice of Overpayment, you can appeal against it, request a waiver, or organize a payment plan.
How To Report a Government Imposter or Social Security Scam
If you received a Social Security scam call:
- Do not take immediate action. Scammers try to convince victims that they must act urgently to resolve bogus issues. Investigate all allegations before you follow any instructions. The SSA will never demand immediate payment or action to resolve an issue with your SSN.
- Refuse to make any payments. If the caller demands cash from you, don't comply — real SSA employees don't ask for money over the phone. Never transfer money via mail, wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, cryptocurrency, or gift cards.
- Do not click on links or attachments. If the caller sent an email, don’t click on or open any links or attachments. These spam emails may contain malware to spy on you, hack your online accounts, and steal your PII.
- Avoid returning calls from unknown numbers. If you suspect the caller is a scammer, stop all communication. By answering calls, you let fraudsters and hackers know they have an active phone number for a potential victim. The best thing to do is avoid answering calls from unknown numbers.
- Report the fraudulent call. You must report fraud to the proper authorities. Visit the OIG website, contact local law enforcement through a non-emergency number, and visit the SSA fraud reporting page to file a complaint.
If an SSA imposter has scammed you:
- Contact local law enforcement. Visit or call your local police department using a non-emergency number to report the scam call. They'll be able to advise you and investigate the matter to prevent others from falling victim.
- File a police report and FTC fraud report. File a report with local law enforcement and visit the FTC’s fraud portal to report the Social Security scam call. Provide as much information as possible to help government agencies investigate the case further.
- Submit a complaint with the FBI Internet Criminal Complaint Center (IC3). If the scammer used online communications to defraud you, file a complaint with the FBI Internet Criminal Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 will forward this information to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement for further investigation.
- Call the SSA fraud hotline. Report the scam call to the SSA fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or submit an online fraud report at oig.ssa.gov.
SSA Imposters Made Two Billion Scam Calls in 2021. Aura Can Help
The SSA does not call people out of the blue. And yet, Social Security scam calls still succeed every day — conning innocent people out of thousands of dollars. The OIG received about 32,000 SSA-related scam call complaints in June of 2021 alone.[*]
Here are five steps that you can take to stop SSA imposters from defrauding you:
- Register your my Social Security account and check it regularly for suspicious activity.
- Sign up for a robocall blocking service through your network carrier.
- Don’t share your SSN or PII with anyone over the phone.
- Be wary of unsolicited calls from anyone claiming to be a government employee.
- Look out for scam alerts posted on official SSA social media pages and on the SSA website.
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