Social Security fraud now constitutes the top scam in the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission said it has received nearly 1.3 million reports of scammers posing as government agents since 2014, more than any other type of fraud reported in that time frame. In the first three months of 2019, nearly 65,000 incidents of attempted scams were reported and almost all of them involved someone pretending to be from the Social Security Administration.
These scammers create a sense of fear or urgency in their victims, either by warning them of a catastrophe—like imminent loss of benefits—or by offering to help with something they need—like a medical device. They make it sound as if there’s no time for the victim to check out their claims.
The Social Security Administration is fighting back, and in late 2019 unveiled a new online form to help people report suspected fraud. But just as consumers have to create habits around other kinds of security, locking their doors and hiding their passcodes, they need to guard against the threat from Social Security scammers to them and to their loved ones.
If thieves get hold of your Social Security number, they can use that to get medical care under your name, which you can be billed for and may affect your health insurance. They can open credit or banking accounts in your name, file for a tax refund, or steal your government benefits. You may not know any of this is happening until the thieves’ creditors start demanding money or until you are notified that “you” have violated some law or regulation.
Consequently, it’s important to make a habit of monitoring your accounts, including bank accounts, investment, and credit card accounts, and your online Social Security account. Where possible, set up alerts so that you will be notified when there’s unusual activity. And when you see something strange, follow up. The longer a thief is able to use your identity before you detect it, the more damage they may do.
Here are some of the more common ways scammers are trying to gain access to Social Security accounts:
Hacking into your Social Security account
One way scammers steal Social Security funds is to hack into someone’s…