Social security scams: How to protect, report and recover from fraud

Our most recent Consumer Pulse revealed digital fraud has risen significantly in the last year. In fact, since March of 2020, reports of digital fraud have increased 73%. One popular scheme involves fraudsters impersonating Social Security Administration (SSA) employees to try to trick you into revealing your valuable personal information or trying to get you to pay them for a made-up violation. They may threaten or demand immediate payment to avoid legal action. The SSA stated they received almost 700,000 allegations of Social Security scams carried out by calls, emails, text messages or mail. Below we explain how to avoid these scams, how to report them and what to do if you accidentally fall victim.

Know what to look for

Getting a call from someone you believe to be a government representative can seem intimidating, especially if there are threats of legal action. It’s important to know Social Security Administration employees will never request information by phone call or text message. They’ll also never request payments over the phone. According to Gail Ennis, the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, “If you ever owe money to Social Security, the agency will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights. Social Security does not suspend Social Security numbers or demand secrecy from you in resolving a problem—ever.”

Of course, scammers don’t limit their schemes to phone calls. They may try texts or emails as well. Be on guard for phishing scams, which can include attempts to get your valuable personal information through official-looking but phony websites and emails. An easy way to know it’s a scam is if they request gift cards or pre-paid debit cards as payment.


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