A recent story in The New York Times shows that criminals now prefer to use the Social Security Administration as their cover for scamming the public.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as of the end of March there have been losses of $19 million over the past 12 months. On average, an individual would lose about $1,500 to these scams. So you want to be careful and protect yourself.
Typically the scammers will try to pressure and scare their victims into handing over either personal information or actual money. For instance, they may tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended due to fraudulent activity and then they’ll ask you to verify your Social Security number with them. In some cases, they’ll tell you to pull money from your bank account; put it onto a gift card; and then to give the criminals the gift card number.
What can you do?
- Be suspicious if someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration calls you out of the blue. Caller ID may not help you – these days, criminals have the ability to make it look like the caller ID is legitimate, even when it’s not.
- If you’re suspicious, hang up and call the Social Security Administration directly using a phone number you looked up on your own, don’t use any phone number the caller may have given to you. Most importantly, keep in mind that real Social Security Administration employees will never threaten you for information.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, visit IdentityTheft.gov which will help you put a freeze on your credit reports and keep criminals from opening new credit cards and bank accounts with your stolen information. That said, it’s always a good idea to check your credit reports regularly and to watch for any suspicious activity.
This information in the Financial Tips section is provided for educational purposes only and is not tax, legal, financial planning or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed in this section constitutes an offer to buy or sell any securities or advisory products. The information provided is general and is not information reasonably sufficient upon which to base an investment decision and should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security. You should not regard this information as a substitute for the exercise of your own judgment. Investing involves risk.