That’s why I try my best to warn you ASAP every time a new scam or hoax starts making the rounds.
While they are all absolutely awful, the scams I hate the most are the ones that target the most vulnerable among us.
One group the scammers love to target are our seniors, many of whom aren’t as technically savvy as today’s youngsters.
Scams targeting seniors have been around forever, but modern technology has made it very easy for the scammers to perpetrate their scams on large numbers of potential victims in a relatively short period of time.
One of the most common senior scams involves Social Security, the financial safety net that millions of older Americans rely on for their month-to-month living expenses.
These Social Security related scams take many forms, but they are usually perpetrated via phone calls, emails or text messages.
In one of the most recent scams the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration.
The scammer tells the potential victim that some type of problem has arisen with their account and it must be handled immediately or the victim’s Social Security check will be cut off.
The scammer then informs the victim that he/she will need to verify their identity in order for them to receive the “help” they need.
The info requested typically includes the victim’s full legal name, date of birth, mailing address and Social Security Number – in other words everything the scammer needs in order to steal the victim’s identity!
In another variation of the scam the scammer informs the victim that due to an error they have been over-paid due to some glitch in the system. The over-payment must be repaid back to the Social Security Administration or they’ll stop receiving their monthly checks.
The scammer then asks for the victim’s bank account number or credit/debit card info so they can take the “over-payment” out of their account.
In another slight variation of this scam the scammer asks the victim to send a money order or gift card to the scammer via the U.S. Mail.
Most of these ‘Social Security’ scams are perpetrated over the telephone simply because many seniors don’t use computers or smartphones.
However, plenty of them are perpetrated via email and text messages as well. The scammers often get the names and contact info of those “digital” victims from lists that are stolen via online data breaches.
The bottom line is this: The Social Security Administration will never call you, email you or text you out of the blue and ask you to provide sensitive information over the phone or in a return email or text message.
After all, they contacted YOU so if they were truly from the Social Security Administration they would already have that information. Therefore they would have no need for you to provide it.
What’s more, a real Social Security rep will NEVER ask you to make an immediate payment while you’re on the phone.
The truth is the folks at the Social Security Administration initiate virtually all of their official business correspondence via postal mail, and those letters usually ask the recipient to visit their nearest Social Security office to clear up whatever it is that needs to be cleared up in person.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, tell them you only respond to those types of inquiries via the U.S. Mail or at your local Social Security Office. And then simply hang up.
If you receive a Social Security related email or text message you can simply ignore it unless you had previously opted in to receive updates that way.
And even if you did previously opt-in to receive Social Security related emails and text messages, those messages will NEVER ask you to reply with sensitive personal information or ask you to make any kind of immediate payment.
This page on the official Social Security Administration website provides several great tips for recognizing and avoiding the many types of Social Security related scams.