What Are Social Security-Related Scams?

Criminals often impersonate the Social Security Administration (SSA) or other government agencies to steal personal information or money. They may contact you through phone calls, emails, texts, letters, or social media messages, pretending to be from the SSA or the Office of the Inspector General. These scammers might use real employee names and send pictures or attachments as “proof.”

While Social Security employees do make phone calls for business purposes, they typically contact individuals who have recently applied for benefits, are already receiving payments and need to update their records or have requested a call. If there’s an issue with your Social Security number or record, the SSA will usually send a letter.

Four Basic Signs of a Scam

Recognizing scam signs empowers you to ignore criminals and report them. Scams come in many forms, but they all share common traits:

  1. Scammers pretend to be from an agency or organization you trust.
  2. Scammers claim there’s a problem or a prize.
  3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
  4. Scammers instruct you to pay in a specific way.

Known Tactics Scammers Use

Scammers frequently change their methods and messages to deceive people. Stay updated on the latest scams by following SSA OIG on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe to email alerts.

These are red flags; Social Security will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest or legal action for not paying immediately.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Require personal information or payment to activate a benefit increase.
  • Pressure you for immediate action or personal information.
  • Ask for payment via gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or cash.
  • Threaten to seize your bank account.
  • Offer to move your money to a “protected” account.
  • Demand secrecy.
  • Direct message you on social media.

Be skeptical and look for red flags. If you receive a suspicious communication, the caller or sender may not be who they claim to be. Scammers might:

  • Use real names of SSA or OIG employees.
  • “Spoof” official government phone numbers or local police numbers.
  • Send official-looking documents via mail, email, text, or social media.

Scammers create fake social media pages using Social Security-related images and jargon to appear legitimate. They may ask for financial information, your Social Security number, or other sensitive data. Social Security will never request such information through social media.

To spot an imposter page, check:

  • Number of followers.
  • Punctuation or spelling errors.
  • Links to non-ssa.gov pages.
  • Advertisements for SSA forms or documents.
  • Incorrect social media handles.

Visit www.ssa.gov/socialmedia for a list of official Social Security channels.

It’s illegal to reproduce federal employee credentials and badges. Federal law enforcement will never send photos of credentials or badges to demand payment, and neither will federal employees.

How to Avoid a Scam

Protect yourself and your loved ones. If you receive a suspicious call, text, email, social media message, or letter from someone claiming to be from Social Security:

  1. Stay calm. If a communication causes a strong emotional response, take a deep breath and talk to someone you trust.
  2. Hang up or ignore the message. Do not click on links or attachments.
  3. Protect your money. Scammers often ask for payment through gift cards, prepaid debit cards, cryptocurrency, wire transfers, or cash because these are hard to trace.
  4. Protect your personal information. Be cautious of any contact from a government agency or law enforcement about a problem you don’t recognize, even if they have some of your personal information.
  5. Spread the word to protect your community from scammers.
  6. Report the scam to the Office of the Inspector General at oig.ssa.gov/report.

What to Do if You Were Scammed

Recovering from a scam can be challenging. Here are some steps to take:

  • Do not blame yourself. Criminal behavior is not your fault.
  • Stop contact with the scammer. Do not respond to their messages.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to add a fraud alert to your credit report.
  • Protect your Social Security Number. Consider requesting a replacement SSN card or a new SSN if necessary.

The Federal Trade Commission’s “What To Do if You Were Scammed” article provides information on what to do if you paid a scammer or gave them your personal information or access to your computer or phone. The FTC also offers assistance in multiple languages. Check out the FTC’s “New Help for Spotting, Avoiding, and Reporting Scams in Multiple Languages” and “Consumer Education in Multiple Languages” for more information.


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