Social Security scams are a major issue and can be extremely dangerous for your wallet. How common is it? AARP included Social Security scam calls in a top list for scams targeting older Americans in 2021.
Let’s talk about some warning signs and how to protect yourself.
Social Security Scam Warning Signs
If someone calls, emails or texts you with any of the following issues, it is likely a scam:
- Tells you there is a problem with your Social Security number or your benefits
- Requests any kind of payment (including gift cards, wire transfers, PayPal or other electronic payment forms)
- Uses scare tactics and threats to pressure you into making a rush decision (such as threatening jail time or legal action if you do not comply)
- Says that your Social Security number has been frozen and that you will not receive your benefits unless you provide the information being requested
Social Security Scams: How To Protect Yourself
In addition to the advice above, here are some key tips to protect yourself.
Do Not Give Out Your Social Security Number
Do not provide your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary (not even the last four digits). Explain to the person who asks for the information that, for security purposes, you will not provide it.
Why does this matter? When you provide your Social Security number it is likely logged and saved in a computer system. So even if it is a legitimate business, a dishonest employee could use the information in a malicious way. Or if the company is part of a security breach and your personal information is stolen, the thieves have your Social Security number along with any other personal information you provided to that company.
Most places that ask for your Social Security number do not really need that information, and most of the time you can decline and still receive the services they are providing. If someone insists, ask that person why they need it and how they ensure that your data will never be compromised.
Never Return a Suspicious Text, Email or Phone Call
Instead of returning a call or clicking a link that appears to be from the Social Security Administration, report it immediately.
And that's a good practice in general. If you get a call, email or text from a person or business you think you know, instead of hitting "reply" or clicking on the link, call or email them back at an address or number you know to be legitimate.
Or you can just wait. If it’s someone you know trying to get in touch with you, they’ll try to get back in touch or leave a voicemail confirming their identity.
Freeze Your Credit
This is one of the best (and free!) ways to protect your identity. This guide walks you through the steps to freeze your credit with the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Create a “mySocialSecurity” Account Now
Money expert Clark Howard wants everyone to set up a "mySocialSecurity" account by age 30. Why so early? This account can help you verify that your information is correct before you start collecting Social Security. Plus, you help prevent criminals from opening an account in your name.
Learn more about this account here.