Protect Yourself from Social Security and Other Government Imposter Scams

Pamela Kweller RSSA Staff

 

As part of the Federal Trade Commission’s National Consumer Protection Week, March 10th is proclaimed as National Slam the Scam Day. This initiative began back in 2020 solely for Social Security scams, but the initiative has now expanded to other government imposter scams.

Scams are common. According to the FTC, there were 396,302 reports of scams in 2021 alone. Close to 40,000 of those reports were associated with Social Security Administration scams. From January through December 2021, consumers lost more than $442 million dollars to government imposter scams.

The imposters are most often pretending to be the Social Security Administration, Health & Human Services (including Medicare), the IRS, the United States Postal Service, and even the Police or FBI. And the most common method of contact is by the phone.

According to the FTC, there are four tell-tale signs that it is a scam.

  1. The scammer pretends to be from an organization you know
  2. The scammer says that there is a “problem” or a “prize”
  3. The scammer pressures you to act right away
  4. The scammer tells you to pay in a specific way

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself from getting scammed.

If you receive a phone call and you think it is a scam…

  • Hang up the phone
  • Do not provide or verify personal information
  • Do not provide payment information
  • Do not call the number back
  • Delete suspicious text messages
  • Block unwanted calls and texts

To protect yourself from scams via the internet and email…

  • Use updated security software on your electronic devices
  • Don’t open links or attachments on suspicious emails
  • Use strong and unique passwords for online accounts
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible
  • Don’t shop on unsecured public Wi-Fi in places like a mall or restaurant
  • Secure home Wi-Fis with a password

Be cautious and be on the lookout for fraudsters. According to the SSA, real government officials will never threaten arrest or legal action against you for not paying money. They will never require payment by cash, gift card, prepaid debit card, internet currency, wire transfer, or mailed cash. Scammers will look and sound official, which is why it is important that you know what to look out for and what to do in the situation.

You can report Social Security-related scams and fraud online on the SSA OIG website and you can report other government imposter scams on the FTC website.

Scams are common so spread the word to your family and friends!