Chances are, you or someone you know have received an ominous call or message from someone pretending to be from the government, alleging that your information has been compromised or demanding immediate payment. Ignore it.
This is just one of the tips the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSA OIG) shared about scams during a national “Slam the Scam Day” in March.
The initiative, which began in 2020 to combat Social Security-related scams, is now expanding to include other government-imposter scams. These scams often involve someone claiming to be an SSA or other government employee who asks for personal information, demands payment, or makes threats. These scams are primarily carried out over the telephone, but perpetrators may also use email, text messages, social media, or U.S. mail.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), from January through September 2021, consumers lost more than $331 million to government imposter scams.
SSA OIG urges everyone to be cautious of any contact supposedly from a government agency telling you about a problem you don’t recognize. Real government officials will never:
- threaten arrest or legal action against you unless you immediately send money;
- promise to increase your benefits or resolve a problem if you pay a fee or move your money into a protected account;
- require payment with gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfer, Internet currency, or by mailing cash; or
- try to gain your trust by providing fake “documentation,” false “evidence,” or the name of a real government official.
“The best ways to avoid falling prey to these types of scams are to hang up the phone or delete suspicious texts and emails without responding,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., secretary-treasurer of the Alliance for Retired Americans.
Report Social Security-related scams and fraud online at https://oig.ssa.gov.
Other government-imposter scams may be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftc.gov/scams.
Scams happen all the time so it is important for us to be informed to protect ourselves. Here is some more information about identity theft from the NYS attorney general.
Besides a general desire for personal privacy and to be “left alone,” there are very legitimate reasons why people act to decrease the personal information easily accessible about themselves.
The fastest growing financial crime in the nation — “identity theft” — is one important reason. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identification information, such as your credit card number or Social Security number, to obtain something of value.
It takes very little to have your identity stolen. Only a few pieces of information can give a thief the ability to, for example, get a credit card in your name and leave you to deal with the bills.
If you believe someone has been using your name or personal information to make purchases, to get credit, or to obtain employment, you need to act right away to protect yourself.