Social Security scammers are at it again.
Residents have reported receiving calls from individuals claiming to be an agent of the “Social Security Department,” telling the the recipient that “there is a warrant out for your arrest” for supposed overpayment of Social Security benefits.
The aim, of course, is to get the potential victim to send money, as repayment of the supposed debt, in one form or another to the scammer, or to get the target to disclose enough personal information to permit identity fraud. And the Paragould Police Department has a blunt warning about such calls:
“Hang up,” said Patrol Capt. Brent McCain. “Don’t even mess with them.”
He added that the Social Security Administration – not “Department” – will never demand anything over the phone. “They’ll send letters first, if you actually owe anything,” McCain said. “And then if they need to, they’ll send someone to contact you face to face.”
McCain also warned that those who stay on the line rather than hanging up should never give out any personal information of any kind. “Don’t even verify information they say they have,” he said, “not even if what they ask you to verify is correct.”
Such personal information can include, but not be limited to, the potential victim’s name, phone number, e-mail, and – of course – Social Security number.
The Administration itself, at ssa.gov, has added a section in recognition of the scam, advising what to do and to avoid in dealing with such scammers. Echoing McCain’s comments, the section indicated that any issues with an account would generate a letter with the individual’s Social Security number. Generally, the Administration will only contact the individual if the individual has requested a call or has ongoing business with the Administration.
The section indicated such scams are on the rise both through the use of robocalls and live people. In addition to what McCain said, the Administration warned that fraudsters may claim there is identity theft or some other problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits.
It also noted that its employees will never threaten the individual for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money. “Social Security may call you in some situations, but will never:
Suspend your Social Security number.
Demand immediate payment from you.
Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, internet currency, or wire transfer.
Ask for gift card numbers over the phone or to wire or mail cash.”
In addition, the Administration offered tips on how to spot a scam, including:
A caller saying there is a problem with one’s Social Security number or account.
To protect oneself and one’s family, the Social Security Administration urged that:
If you receive a questionable call, hang up, and report the call to our Office of the Inspector General.
Don’t return unknown calls.
Ask someone you trust for advice before making any large purchase or financial decision.
Don’t be embarrassed to report if you shared personal financial information or suffered a financial loss.
Share this information with friends and family.
In addition, since the media for which it is responsible are likewise exploited for scams, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers added advice:
It urged that people not answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize.
If the caller is not who was expected, hang up immediately.
Never give out personal information such as account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, or other identifying information if a call seems suspicious.
Anyone seeking additional information can visit oig.ssa.gov/scam, or follow the FCC on Twitter at @fcc.