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Social Security scam warning
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Security & privacy

Security warning: Watch out for Social Security scammers

Since much information is tied to your Social Security number, scammers often look for ways to get their hands on it. A recent change to Social Security benefits has scammers out in full force, and you must know how to protect yourself.

Read on for details on tricky scams where thieves incorporate Social Security benefits and how to outwit them.

Here’s the backstory

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for recipients of Social Security benefits and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). With inflation skyrocketing over the last couple of years, Social Security benefit payments will increase by as much as 8.7% this year.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers are waiting to pounce. They will contact you through email, text messages or even a phone call.

A thief pretending to be an SSA representative claims you must apply for the cost-of-living increase. They might ask you to visit a website, send information via text or email, or speak with them on the phone to get the benefit.

The scammer will ask you to verify your identity by sharing personal details, such as your full name, address, or Social Security number. They may even ask for your bank account information, claiming that the representative will deposit the extra money directly into your account.

But beware. It’s a scam!

“If you give your information to the person in question, they will have gained access to your most sensitive personal information, making you susceptible to identity theft. If you give up your banking information, they may even be able to gain access to your money,” the BBB explains.

How to avoid Social Security scams

The main giveaway that this is a scam is the fact that you don’t need to apply for the cost-of-living increase. It’s an automatic process. If you or a loved one receive Social Security benefits, stay alert to the signs of a scam.

Here are some suggestions to avoid these types of scams:

  • Remember, the SSA’s COLA is automatic. You don’t need to do anything to receive the increase in benefits. If someone tells you otherwise, you’re likely dealing with a scammer.
  • Know how the SSA communicates. The Social Security Administration will mail you a letter if there’s a problem with your Social Security number. It will never call you unless you have requested to be contacted or have ongoing business with SSA. A call, text, or email from an SSA agent out of the blue is a red flag.
  • Don’t give in to threats. SSA will never threaten you with arrest or legal action. They will never suspend your Social Security number or demand payment from you. They will never ask for personal information or banking details to give you an increase in benefits. If someone demands these things or threatens you over the phone, they are not with SSA.
  • When in doubt, hang up. If you suspect you might be getting scammed, stop all communications. Visit Medicare.gov to research or call 1-800-MEDICARE to confirm that the correspondence is legitimate before taking action.

If you spot a Medicare scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker and https://oig.ssa.gov/report. Reports like yours can help protect others from falling victim to a scam.

Keep reading

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