Beware New Social Security Scam Involving Texts
It's quite sad to me how often I seem to have to write about people being defrauded of their hard earned money, often involving a lifetime of hard work and savings. However, with scammers and identity thieves never ending in their creativity and quest to detach you from your stuff, I feel it ever more important to get information out there about the latest schemes.
One of the latest involves scammers passing themselves off as employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Dishonest people impersonating SSA representatives is not something entirely new. In the past, we have seen this with phone calls being made to unsuspecting possible victims in which somehow the thieves have spoofed actual SSA Washington DC phone numbers to appear they are legitimate.
I don't pretend to understand the technology behind how they do that, but when your caller ID shows what appears to be a real phone number and agency name listed, you tend to pay attention. We've all had to learn, and are still learning, that government agencies such as the IRS and the SSA don't simply just call you demanding personal information or threatening you with some kind of severe consequence if you do not comply.
This latest trick is a variation on the above. In this fraud, the crook will send you a text claiming to be with the SSA. Again, the text will appear to be from the real agency number, when in reality they have spoofed that number for nefarious use. However, to add credibility, they will often add a picture of what appears to be a real government issued SSA ID badge in an attempt to convince you they are the real deal.
The texter will then try to use intimidation tactics to get the information they desire, generally your social security number, which they then can use to do all kinds of nasty things, such as take out a loan, open a charge account, raid a bank account, buy a vehicle or even file a false tax return. As I said, nasty stuff that can cause you considerable harm. That's their end game!
The intimidation tactics include threatening a reduction in your social security benefits or even involving law enforcement in a nonexistent criminal investigation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has posted on its website "Four Signs That It's a Scam". I call these, the five P's. They are:
1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.
2. Scammers say there's a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.
3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.
4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.
The FTC also provides information on other common scams at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts, if you want to know more, and I hope you do. I encourage you to do some homework there. Further, the FTC says if you already been a victim of a scam you should report it. You can do this at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov.
I can only imagine the fear that some people must feel when they see that fake picture and a scammer is citing an authentic sounding badge number! It certainly can evoke serious emotion and consideration of their requests. As SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul said in a call back in March on this topic, "The scammers play on emotion, generally fear, to get people to act without thinking."
However, it so important NOT to play along! This can't be emphasized enough. If you get such a call, just hang up! If you get that text, just delete!