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Reports from several cities across the country are raising alarms about con artists. These thieves are calling disability recipients and claiming that their accounts have been hacked and their benefits and Social Security numbers have been frozen. The swindlers falsely claim they work for the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration.
Don’t fall for this scam. If you get this kind of call, absolutely do not offer any personal information (like your Social Security number or bank account information) and do not call the phone number they provide. Instead, if you get a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report. The Social Security Administration (SSA) says, “OIG investigators occasionally contact citizens by telephone for investigative purposes, but they will not request sensitive personal information…from a citizen over the phone.” Acting Inspector General Gale Stallworth Stone issued a statement saying in part: “This phishing scheme is targeting unsuspecting persons for the purpose of Social Security benefit theft or identity theft.”
Scammers try to leverage two basic emotions to con their innocent victims: greed and fear. Greed is at the heart of “get rich quick” schemes and “you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes” scams. To exploit people’s fears, con artists will try to convince their victims that they owe back taxes, or that they haven’t paid some fake government debt (often threatening that the sheriff or some other government agent is on their way to their house to arrest them unless they immediately pay up). Or, they may claim that there is some “problem” that will affect a person’s rightfully earned government benefits.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that “crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine sophisticated technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. They add new twists to old schemes and pressure people to make important decisions on the spot. One thing that never changes: they follow the headlines—and the money.” In this recent “phishing” scheme, the caller indicates that an issue exists pertaining to the person’s Social Security account or Social Security number (SSN) and directs the person call a non-SSA telephone number to address the issue. The AARP Fraud Watch Network reports that it has received many complaints to its helpline in the past few months from consumers targeted by Social Security impostors, according to Amy Nofziger, an AARP fraud expert.
Some of the calls include a recording from a caller stating she is “Nancy Jones,” an “officer with the Inspector General of Social Security.” The recording goes on to say the person’s Social Security account, SSN, and/or benefits are suspended, and that he or she should call a certain number to resolve the issue. While the scheme’s details may vary, you should not call the number provided, as the unknown caller might attempt to acquire your personal information, which the crook will then use to steal your identity. With this personal data, the scammer could then rack up thousands of dollars on credit cards taken out in your name or could ransack your bank account.
All consumers need to know that crooks have the ability to spoof caller IDs to make it look like you’re being contacted by a legitimate source. Technology makes it easy for unscrupulous individuals to robocall millions of phones. They just keep calling and calling until they get some unsuspecting person to fork over personal information or send them money. Don’t be that person. Clearing up your finances after your identity has been stolen is a slow and frustrating process.