As fraudsters become more sophisticated, they find more ways to separate consumers from their hard-earned cash. One of the ways they’re making inroads is via a caller ID “spoofing” scheme pretending to be a representative from the Social Security Administration. Other scams use email or snail mail. There are variations of all these tricks, but the goal is the same – to steal your money, identity or both. Here are just a few to guard against.
The Gift Card Scam
How It Works:
The phone rings and the caller ID displays Social Security’s toll-free fraud hotline number. Scammers may also call using local area codes to hide their location. The robocall states there’s criminal activity linked to your Social Security number and to call back to avoid having your card suspended. This is a particularly useful ploy to use on senior citizens, because many rely on Social Security checks and don’t want those payments to stop. If you want to hear an example of a fraudulent phone call, listen to this one provided by the FTC.
If you take the bait and call back, the thief may ask you to confirm your Social Security number to reactivate it, allowing them to steal your number. Or the fraudster will tell you your account isn’t safe or will be seized due to illegal activity. To keep your money safe, they instruct you to buy gift cards at a local retail outlet deemed a “government-certified store” such as Walmart, Walgreens or Target. Then they’ll ask you to provide the codes on the back of the cards or mail them to an address for recordkeeping purposes. Keep in mind that these codes provide thieves access to your money just as easily as having the physical card in their possession.
Don’t Fall for It
The truth is Social Security would never call and threaten you with cutting off your benefits or ask you to put money on gift cards or prepaid debit cards, wire money, or send cash. The same holds true for the IRS. This is simply a ploy to play upon your emotions and get you to do something rash.
What to Do:
- Never return a robocall, even if it’s showing the real SSA phone number: 1-800-772-1213.
- If you do decide to check on a fraudulent call, don’t return it using the callback feature. Call the SSA directly and even if you have to wait for a representative, they will assuage your fears.
- Never give personal financial information to callers. This includes providing even partial Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information.
- Report suspicious calls to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
- Get an answering machine to screen calls.
- Contact your wireless carrier for solutions to help block scammers.
- Educate your elderly parents about phone, email and mail scams.
Mail Fraud: The Extra Social Security Check Scam
Snail mail is another way fraudsters can target older Americans.
How It Works:
A letter offers offers the recipient an extra social security check if they fill out a form providing personal financial information, including their Social Security and bank account numbers and a filing fee.
Don’t Fall for It
The SSA will never ask for your Social Security number — because they already have it — banking information, or money.
Email Phishing Scams
How it Works:
Email is another way scammers use to get to your personal information or money. They design them to look like an official SSA message.
Don’t Fall for It
The SSA and the Office of the Attorney General do not send emails asking for personal information. Never provide personal financial information from an email and never click on a link within the email.
Guard Against Identity Theft
The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to take a proactive approach to protecting your personal information and finances.
- Don’t share personal information over the phone, email or mail.
- Keep your Social Security in a secure location and don’t carry it in your wallet.
- Shred paper documents with personal information.
- Check your credit reports regularly.
- Visit the FTC website for scam alerts.
We’re Here to Help
At SchoolsFirst FCU, we want to partner with you to help you protect your personal financial information. If you have questions, please call our Member Contact Center:
Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.
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