Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against Social Security fraud.
Anybody can get those annoying robo-calls on their phones at home and work – including FBI employees. Scammers are definitely equal opportunity fraudsters! Like many of you, I have always received my fair share of calls, but recently I had a week where the calls just wouldn’t stop. Most came from a set of almost identical numbers.
When I picked up, the recorded voice told me that someone was using my Social Security number to commit fraud. The scammer then used a bit of social engineering to try to get me to act without thinking. The voice tried to frighten me by telling me that Social Security officials were shutting down my card, and I would lose all my benefits. If I would just press a certain number on the keypad, I would be connected to someone who could help me resolve the issue.
There are plenty of different kinds of fraud schemes involving Social Security. In some cases, the scammer may tell you that he can help you get more benefits or resolve some previously unknown problem. In another variation, the person contacting you may say your Social Security file is missing some information, and he just needs to update the file to ensure you don’t lose out on anything. Regardless of the scheme, the fraudster is trying to get personal information out of you. With your number and other personal details you provide, he can potentially take out loans, get credit cards or try to access a tax return that is coming to you.
Our friends at the Social Security Administration have some helpful tips on keeping yourself safe:
- Know that Social Security employees will never threaten to reduce your benefits or promise an increase in benefits if you give them personal information.
- Never give personal information over the phone or by email, particularly if the request comes from an unsolicited caller or in an unsolicited message.
- If you receive one of these calls, simply hang up. Do not engage the caller.
- If you have questions or concerns about your Social Security benefits, go to the official website at www.ssa.gov and look up legitimate contact information. Remember – scammers can spoof numbers so they may look real. The only way to know for sure is if you originate the call.
- Finally, if you feel as though you have been caught in a Social Security scam, report it to https://oig.ssa.gov/
This is just one of many such phone and email scams out there. Remember - if you have been victimized by an online scam, can also report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.