Social Security calling? It’s likely a scam
For the past few years, the media have widely reported on scammers who call unsuspecting victims pretending to be representatives of the IRS. They claim the potential victim owes money and encourage them to make payments using credit cards, debit cards or even gift cards.
Amazingly, thousands of people have fallen for the scam and have collectively lost tens of millions of dollars. As articles and columns unfailingly point out, this is not how government agencies collect debts. The IRS will not call you to collect a debt, and it certainly will not recommend payment via gift card!
Now it seems the fraudsters have a new wrinkle: impersonating a representative from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
AARP has warned of a dramatic increase in complaints from individuals complaining about callers purporting to be from the SSA. As with the IRS scam, the SSA impersonation scam gains its effectiveness from the simple fact that people fear getting on the bad side of SSA, as doing so could seriously complicate their lives.
New scam techniques
Unfortunately, these scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques. For example, they are now using robo-call systems that allow them to make millions of calls and repeat calls until they receive a positive response.
The scammers falsely yet convincingly make it look like they’re calling from a legitimate 800 number associated with SSA (specifically 1-800-772-1213).
One of their demands is that the potential victim makes a payment over the phone in order to obtain a new Medicare card. While new Medicare cards are being issued, they are absolutely free. So if any caller claiming to be a government agent asks you for any payment in order to receive a new Medicare card, you know you are dealing with a scammer.
Other ploys include indicating that you are in danger of losing some benefits unless you provide some personal information. Again, this is a sure sign that you are the subject of a scam.
Sometimes the scammer will claim that if you provide personal information, you may be eligible for a larger Social Security benefit, or that you are being called because SSA computers are down and your personal information has been lost.
A reliable sign that the call is a scam is if the caller threatens that your benefits will be terminated or reduced if you don’t comply with his or her demand for a fee or personal information.
In another variant on the scam you may receive an automated recording indicating that your Social Security number has been suspended because of illegal activity. You are then provided with a phone number to call to fix the problem and told that if you don’t call to fix the problem, your assets will be frozen. Once you call the number, you will be asked to provide personal information, exposing yourself to identity theft.
Report calls to the SSA
If you believe you have received a fraudulent call, report the details of the call to the fraud hotline of the SSA inspector general of Social Security at 1-800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov/report.
Also notify any seniors you know who might be gullible to be on the lookout from scammers claiming to be SSA representatives.
It is possible that the SSA could discover it has overpaid you for some reason and will demand you repay the overage. In that case SSA will contact you by mail, not by phone.
If this happens, insist on a clear explanation as to why you were overpaid. You have the right to appeal such a request by filing Form SSA-561, Request for Reconsideration.
If you agree you have been overpaid but you believe you did not cause the overpayment and you can’t afford the terms of repayment, file Form SSA-632, Request for Waiver of Overpayment or Change in Repayment Rate. By filing this form, you are asking SSA to reconsider their decision and either let you pay back the amount at a different rate than SSA requested or waive the request for overpayment.
Elliot Raphaelson welcomes your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2019 Elliot Raphaelson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.