You may think that Social Security number (SSN) phone scams are a thing of the past, and that fraudsters have moved on to more creative ways to con individuals out of their money or steal their personal information. In fact, some scams remain more common than others because they continuously return results, and the phone call remains one of the favorite vehicles for identity thieves. It’s an inexpensive way for criminals to reach out and snag someone unaware, getting them to hand over their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) without realizing who is actually on the other end of the line.
Oh No! My Social Security Number is at Risk
In the past year, there have been more than 63,000 reports of robocall scams, where people receive a threatening call that their Social Security number has been suspended. The message will claim to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and ask you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. In May this year alone, the FTC reported 46,000 imposter scam complaints – those scams where someone is pretending to be someone they aren’t in order to fool you into revealing your PII, send them money, or divulge any number of personal details that can be used to commit identity theft and fraud.
According to the recent FTC Consumer Sentinel Report, imposter and telephone services scams are the top two reported fraud complaints in the past year. Altogether, individuals have lost a total sum of over $500 million.
Be Cautious of Suspicious Phone Messages
Phone number spoofing technology — where the caller presents a false number on your caller ID — and robocalling have made phone scams abundant, sophisticated, and difficult to detect. Once an individual gives out their PII, the scammer has access to all the details they need to commit an identity crime. Here’s one example of an imposter phone scam targeting your SSN, through a robotic phone call:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported a 20x spike in Social Security Administration (SSA) vishing campaigns, such as the one above, geared to trap people into sharing their SSN — to the tune of $16.6 million last year. Perpetrators use scare tactics to trick people into thinking their Social Security number has been compromised and will cause a delay with their benefits or tax filings because it has been “locked for their protection.” The scam is an effort to get the victim to divulge their PII for confirmation of their identity. They may also request money from the victim in order to “restore” or unlock their SSN. Once fraudsters have someone’s SSN information, they can use it to commit various types of identity theft, apply for government benefits, and beyond.
Tips to Protect Your Sensitive Information
- Never share personal information with unsolicited callers. If someone calls you asking for personal information, don’t give it to them. If the caller says they’re with your bank, or with a state or federal department, hang up and call those agencies directly to confirm the request is legitimate.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Scammers can spoof phone numbers to show up on your phone, disguising who they really are. Don’t make any decision to share information with a caller based on what the caller ID says.
- Do not give out your Social Security number (SSN) over the phone. Your SSN is not going to be suspended, no matter how scary the caller makes it sound. Remember, the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other government agencies will not call you requesting your SSN, and will not threaten to take away or charge you money to “reactivate” your benefits.
- Report suspected scams. Several agencies are working to reduce fraud and capture scammers, including the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Keep up with the latest scams on FightingIdentityCrimes.com
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.