Social Security scams are hardly a new thing, but the latest one could cause you a fair amount of undue stress, not to mention put your finances at risk. Scammers have been calling seniors claiming to be Social Security Administration (SSA) reps and threatening to suspend benefits for those who don't provide the information they ask for -- information that could easily lead to identity theft.
As part of this scam, you might also get a call stating that there's criminal activity linked to your Social Security number, and if you don't resolve it, you'll be putting your benefits at risk. Or, you may be asked to confirm your Social Security number so that the "SSA" can sort out a problem relating to your account.
If you're collecting Social Security, it's imperative that you recognize the makings of a scam and avoid giving out your Social Security number or other key pieces of personal information. Otherwise, you may indeed wind up with a very large problem on your hands.
Protect those benefits
Let's make one thing clear: The SSA will never call you and threaten to suspend your benefits over the phone. If you receive a call along those lines, hang up. Furthermore, you should never, ever give out your Social Security number when the request is unsolicited.
Now you may, at times, get a call from the SSA asking for information, but because scammers can alter their numbers to make it seem like it's the agency dialing you, it's hard to know when those calls are legitimate or not. Your best bet, therefore, is to call the SSA back yourself at its main number -- (800) 772-1213 -- and speak to an agent directly following such contact.
Furthermore, if you do get a scam call, be sure to report it at once. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a website dedicated to Social Security fraud, and sharing your experience could make it easier for them to investigate.
What if you've already fallen victim to fraud?
If you already gave out your Social Security number, or other pieces of personal information, in conjunction with the aforementioned scam, you'll need to do some legwork to minimize the damage. First, contact the FTC -- they'll guide you through your next steps. Next, contact the SSA and explain that you're worried your benefits are at risk. The agency should be able to advise you on what to do, and in some cases, it may even issue you a new Social Security number.
Furthermore, you may want to freeze your credit to prevent criminals from using your Social Security number to open new accounts in your name and rack up debt against them. And from there, you'll want to monitor your credit report by checking it every few months to make sure there's no fraudulent activity to be found.
The last thing you want to do is fall victim to a Social Security scam. So don't let that happen. If a caller contacts you claiming to be the SSA, don't believe it. Even if that call is legitimate, the issue at hand can be resolved by you calling the SSA back and dealing with it from a place of having initiated that contact.