Frauds & Scams

Inspector General Warns Public About New Twist To Social Security Phone Scams

January 9, 2020 • By

Last Updated: January 9, 2020

The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public that telephone scammers may send faked documents by email to convince victims to comply with their demands. The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of victims who received emails with attached letters and reports that appeared to be from Social Security or Social Security OIG. The letters may use official letterhead and government “jargon” to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

This is the latest variation on Social Security phone scams, which continue to be widespread throughout the United States. Using robocalls or live callers, fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim there is identity theft or another problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits. They may threaten arrest or other legal action, or may offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They often demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency such as Bitcoin, or pre-paid debit card.

Inspector General Ennis urges continued vigilance against all types of phone scams no matter what “proof” callers may offer. As we continue to increase public awareness of phone scams, criminals will come up with new ways to convince people of their legitimacy. Social Security will never:

  • threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee;
  • promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
  • require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card; or
  • send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

If there is ever a problem with your Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail you a letter. If you do need to submit payments to Social Security, the agency will send a letter with instructions and payment options. You should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. The scammers ask for payment this way because it is very difficult to trace and recover.

If you receive a call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about a problem with your Social Security number or account, hang up or do not respond. We encourage the public to report Social Security phone scams using our dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov. Please share this information with your friends and family, to help spread awareness about phone scams. For more information, please visit https://oig.ssa.gov/scam.

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About the Author

About Tracy Lynge, Communications Director for the Office of the Inspector General

Comments

  1. LINDA LEE HIRASHIMA

    Vonda: I have received today 12/14/20 2 calls saying my ssn has been suspended just like William. One number was 707 230-6754 and the other was “unknown”. There hasn’t been a live person, just a voice. I stayed on the line long enough for them to hang up. Never press any buttons.

    • Susan

      Thanks for letting us know, Linda. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams – misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems – have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

  2. Jerry Saunders

    I received a call at 4:52 pm est from 614-650-5151 saying they were with Social Security and my benefit was at risk. I hung up immebiately.

    • Vonda

      Thanks for letting us know, Jerry. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

  3. Robin

    i applied for medicare last week and yesterday i received a call from866-431-3875; x1951 asking me to confirm my mother’s maiden name. i said i wasn’t comfortable so they said they would send me an email and letter (but said letter could take a few weeks to arrive). i id give my email and email just asked me to call same number as well as 215-597-1951, which i did not. i googled both numbers and scam alerts came up.

    • Vonda

      Hi Robin, thanks for checking in with us. To see if Social Security sent the email, you would need to call your local office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  4. Kenneth Fulmore

    Wife got the ‘disability advisor’ calls repeatedly. Twice from spoofed numbers in our are code, once from Texas (915) 257-3655 (which isn’t even an active number!).
    Party could barely speak intelligibly in English.

  5. Esther Gonzales

    I need to change the misspelling of my last name I never sign my papers or basically my rest of ongoing life I have always used Esther Gonzales and not Esther Gonzalez which is also on my social security card however I really didn’t think that it really mattered because also on my drivers license I have it with es not ez but then when receiving a letter from social security office and Edd stateing if I am really who I say I am or am I using someone else’s ss# which I I am not then they brought to my attention that I cannot do that I need to sighn what is on my social security card. But that’s not how I spell it I spell it with es so know I need to show proof of my identity so they don’t think I am committing fraud which ch I had no idea that’s how serious it can be so now I am seeing what or how do I go about to correct the last name to the way I have all my documents that I sign or received with the ending es. Esther Gonzales not Gonzalez.

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Esther thank you for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page on how to correct your name. If you do not want to mail in your documents, which will be returned, you may need to wait for the offices to reopen. Use our Social Security Office Locator to find your local office address. We hope this helps.

  6. William Louis-Brux

    I just received an apparent scam call from someone claiming to be with the SSA. They said my social security number had been “Suspended due to suspicious activity” when I pressed them for more information, they hung up on me.

    The phone number the call originated from is: 920-441-6500

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Thanks for letting us know, William. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

  7. Steven Miller

    Today, for the second time in two weeks, my wife received a phone call from a party supposedly located in Texas, telling her that she was about to be arrested for misuse of her Social Security number. No matter how many times I tell her that this is a scam, she fears for her freedom.

    Note that she suffers from several forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia.

    Could someone send Penny an email to my address, below, to re-assure her that she is in no danger? I would be very grateful.

    Thank You

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Thanks for letting us know, Steven. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

  8. Mike

    Receiving calls “This is Social Security alerting you to let you know there is illegal activity on your social security account” They ask my name and I tell them they should know my name because they called me. They get frustrated and hang up. 740-935-xxxx numbers.

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Thanks for letting us know, Mike. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us. Recently, scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Our employees will never threaten you for information or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money.

      If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

  9. Bernadette Henderson

    This is Social Security alerting you to let you know there is illegal activity on your social account. various numbers
    314-805-4153, 314-805-3678

  10. Francina Ivory

    New scam. “This is Social Security alerting you to let you know there is illegal activity on your social security account press 4 to our investigation unit for further information” clever huh? Lol

Comments are closed.