Social security scams are when someone steals your credit card and uses it with identity theft for financial gain. Another definition used by the federal government is that if you falsify your income or other records when receiving government payouts, that is also considered a social security scams.
Since 1936 the Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued more than 453 million social security numbers. The SSA issues around 5.5 million new ones every year. Social security fraud is a serious crime with severe consequences and costs taxpayers millions per year.
Some Common Social Security Schemes
Sadly, older adults are often the target of social security fraud. They rely on their social security income to live, and back in 2018, the FTC reported a slew of scams being perpetrated on older Americans. Someone calls pretending to be from the SSA and says that the victim’s social security number was used in criminal activity, and therefore they locked it and need to reissue a new one for a fee. Often these calls will be accompanied by a threat of arrest or suspension of benefits. You will never receive a call from social security, nor do they arrest anyone.
These calls are meant to extort money from people who don’t understand that the SSA never blocks or suspends social security numbers. The scammers ask for information, including the full social security number which is enough for identity theft. By the time they hang up they have the fee and enough information to open new accounts in the person’s name. Some of these calls are made using an automated system with a call back number.
Some other common types of social security scams include:
Someone applies for social security benefits, and they provide false information such as workers’ compensation funds they are receiving. Along with this, the concealment of information that would affect SS benefits is also a common form of fraud.
Someone applies for social security benefits on behalf of a close relative or friend who is incapacitated, and the fraudster actually spends the money themselves. The benefactor never sees a dime. A variant of this is when a legitimate social security beneficiary dies, and the relatives fail to report it and continue to receive the checks and spend them.
Stolen Social Security Cards
On the dark web, there is a treasure trove of information and often buckets of stolen social security card numbers. Thieves purchase these lists and then use the numbers to perpetrate identity theft, open new accounts in the victim’s names, and then charge credit.
“Insider” SS Scams
Insider SS scams occur when someone who works for the social security administration manipulates records so that they can receive monetary benefits that rightfully belong to someone else.
How to Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams
The above is just a sampling of the many ways that criminals have devised to use someone else’s social security number to steal money. Although it’s impossible to be 100% safe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Except for the actual government, banks, and sometimes medical facilities, no one needs your social security number. Be very cautious when giving out that information; know who you are giving it to.
- Monitor your credit reports at all times; sign up for credit monitoring with a company like IDStrong.com, so you don’t have to worry about it. Look for any discrepancies or accounts you did not open.
- You may want to consider a credit freeze so no one can open accounts in your name.
- Do not carry your social security card in your wallet.
- Store financial documents or anything with your SS number on it in a safe or shred them if they are no longer needed.
- If anyone calls you requesting your SS number, tell them “no, it’s personal,” and you won’t be providing it. Hang up the phone if the person starts pressuring you.
- Set up an online account with the SSA and check your account frequently for any suspicious activity.
How to Report Social Security Card Fraud
If you know someone who is using a stolen social security card, it is just as important to report that as if you experience social security fraud yourself. To report the theft of your number or anyone else’s social security crimes:
- You can contact the SSA to verify information about calls you received or report fraud at 800-772-1213.
- The AARP suggests that if you are a victim of a social security scams, to call the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, online or at 800-269-0271. If your social security number is stolen, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Experian, credit reporting agency, suggests also contacting your state tax agency to report the issue.
In serious situations where your social security number has been compromised beyond repair, they SSA may issue you a new one. You would have to prove the theft and damage incurred.