Social Security can provide a foundation of income and benefits to plan for a smooth transition into a relaxing retirement. However, many scammers are looking to steal your Social Security funds and earn a big payday for themselves.
In 2021, more than 568,000 Social Security-related scam complaints were reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA), of which victims lost a total of over $63.6 million. As of March 2022, the agency has already received reports of more than 31,000 Social Security scam attempts.1
Scammers often use fear as a way to pressure victims into providing personal information or sending money. For example, a criminal may call you with a caller ID that reads “Social Security Administration,” explaining that you owe $100,000 to the agency. The scammer, impersonating an agent, may also threaten to arrest you if you do not pay what is owed quickly via PayPal®, Venmo®, pre-paid gift cards, cryptocurrency, a wire transfer or even encrypted applications such as WhatsApp®. Once you pay the fee, however, the impersonator will disappear along with your savings.
To keep your funds and future safe from Social Security scams, here are a few red flags to watch for:
- Anyone calling, texting or emailing you saying there is a problem with your Social Security number (SSN) or banking information, even if their phone ID appears to be from the agency. Caller ID can be spoofed to disguise a criminal’s identity.
- A feeling of panic to pay a fine immediately to avoid punishment.
- Fabricated government badges, identification numbers and SSA letterhead.
The SSA will never call, email or text you demanding any kind of payment, personal details or banking information. They will also never suspend your SSN as a threat. If there is a problem, the agency will send you a letter and generally only after you have contacted them first.
If you do receive a suspicious call, text or email, take these steps:
- Hang up immediately.
- Never give out your personal information, SSN or account details from your financial institution.
- Never pay anyone by mailing cash, cryptocurrency, wire transfer or pre-paid gift cards unless you are certain of their identity.
- Do not click on links, call phone numbers provided in unsolicited emails or texts, or give an unknown person access to your computer, phone or other device.
- Change your passwords to be strong and unique.
- Check your credit reports regularly.
- Report any fraudulent attempt to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General to help in their efforts of putting a stop to the scam.
Visit our Security page to stay updated on the latest scams and keep your funds protected.