Phone Schemes: 5 Common Tactics Misusing SSA Authority

Beyond the Numbers

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Posted by: 
The Communications Division

Scammers are misusing SSA’s authority in several ongoing phone schemes to trick people into giving them money or personal information, such as their Social Security number (SSN).

In recent months, we have received various reports from citizens across the country about questionable SSA-related phone calls. From those reports, here are five common tactics that phone scammers are currently using.

1. Social Security Number/Account Issues

This appears to be the most prevalent tactic. The scammer identifies as an SSA employee and tells the person that there is a problem with their SSN or Social Security account. The scammer then tells the person to fix the problem, he or she needs to call a provided phone number and be prepared to provide personal information, including their name, date of birth, SSN, etc.

2. Suspicious Account Activity

These calls, which may be automated recordings, state the person’s SSN, “has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity,” and the person should contact a provided phone number immediately to resolve the issue. The calls state if the person does not contact the provided phone number, their “assets will be frozen” until the alleged issue is resolved. A recent report stated a caller said the person’s account had been “blacklisted” due to an ongoing investigation.

3. Impersonating SSA or OIG Employee

The scammer calls, claims to work for SSA or the OIG, and tries to trick the person into providing personal information. For example, the scammer tells the person that they are a federal investigator and are conducting a fraud investigation on the person’s account. In order to proceed, they need the person’s personal information.

4. Outstanding Arrest Warrant

In this scheme, the scammer claims to work for SSA or the OIG, and tells the victim there is an outstanding arrest warrant for the victim because authorities believe the victim is involved in illegal activities. The scammer then tells the victim to clear the warrant, they need to purchase certain gift cards and provide the card numbers to the scammer; the scammer then gets away with funds on the cards.

5. Potential Benefit Increase

Some callers even offer the promise of additional Social Security benefits. In one case, the scammer claims to be an SSA employee and tells the person they are due a certain percentage of cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of their benefits. The scammer then asks the person to verify their personal information to receive the increase. We have also received reports of calls claiming that people are due additional disability benefits if they respond and confirm their personal information.

Report Scams

Scammers might use different schemes, but they are after the same thing: your money or your personal information. Therefore, the best line of defense is to educate yourself and know how to identify and report various schemes. You should also remain vigilant in protecting yourself from this and other forms of fraud; if you receive a suspicious phone call, ignore the call and report it to the appropriate authority. 

For more information, check out our Scam Awareness page.