The Social Security Administration Is Calling—Except It's Not
One of the most popular ways criminals steal money and sensitive information is by impersonating a trusted source—often a government agency. A frequently impersonated agency is the Social Security Administration (SSA). Cell phone provider T-Mobile reported that in 2021 its customer security tools flagged more than 2 billion Social Security impostor calls as scams. Here's what you need to know to spot and stop a Social Security impostor scam.
How It Works
- You receive an unexpected phone call, text, or email from someone claiming to be from SSA who needs to talk with you urgently.
- You learn there is a problem with your Social Security number—for example, they warn that it's been linked to criminal activity and suspended.
- Or they will explain that you qualify for an increase in your benefit, but you must register and pay a fee to obtain it.
- To address whatever issue they present, you need to share your Social Security number, other sensitive information, or pay money.
What You Should Know
- All scams rely on getting the target into a heightened emotional state, such as fear or excitement. In the SSA impostor scam, the criminals use one or the other (sometimes both), knowing that it's hard to access logical thinking when emotions are high.
- SSA will not call you out of the blue and will not ask for your Social Security number—they already have it.
- Sometimes the criminal will add an air of authenticity by claiming to be from the Social Security Office of the Inspector General—no matter what office they claim to be from, it's a lie.
What You Should Do
- Don't engage with anyone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration; if you are concerned there is a problem with your account, contact SSA at 800-772-1213 (but prepare to wait a while before you talk to a person).
- You can set up a "My SSA Account" and receive encrypted communications from SSA through it. With this access, you can go online to find if SSA is trying to reach you. You can also check the status of an application, get a replacement card, and more. Get started at ssa.gov/myaccount.
- If you shared your Social Security number and feel it was part of a scam, file a police report for a record and go to IDtheft.gov for specific guidance on protecting against its use in identity fraud.