Cons Are Victimizing Social Security Checks
Government warns beneficiaries about cons trying to target Social Security checks.
Reports said that cons are pretending to be agents for the government’s retirement benefits program, trying to persuade seniors to verify their private information, such as birth dates, Social Security numbers and names of parents. Cons are promising seniors increase in benefits if these information will be provided.
According to Gale Stallworth Stone, acting inspector general for Social Security, once the scammers received all the needed information, they will request for a change of the account holder’s deposit details from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and steal the real account holder’s Social Security checks.
There are no exact numbers as to how many seniors have fallen victim by this scam, but Stone said in a customer advisory that they have been receiving complaints through phone calls from all over the country.
But this case is only the most recent scheme involving scammers who pretend to be staff from Social Security in order to extort money from beneficiaries. In March, the Social Security Office of the Inspector General already alerted the public about two cases of fraud involving a recorded phone call that informs seniors that they are having problems with their Social Security checks and provides a phone number to be called for more information.
Once the seniors call the number indicated in the recording, they will be notified of a warrant issued for their arrest, and that the only resolution for the warrant is to purchase prepaid debit cards that cost hundreds of dollars.
According to the SSA, seniors typically receive notifications from the agency that they have been overpaid, and are requested to repay these overpayments. However, the SSA noted that repayments are usually deducted from future payments or paid via check. The agency does not request for payments to be done via prepaid debit cards, gifts, or other untraceable sources.
Stone said in a written warning to beneficiaries that the scam is targeting unsuspecting people and defrauds them of their resources using scare tactics. He warns seniors that if they ever encounter people on the phone coercing them into buying or providing payments for suspicious reasons, they should hang up.
Another recent scheme involves an unscrupulous lawyer from Kentucky who pleaded guilty for substantiating thousands of fake Social Security disability claims through filing bogus documents. The lawyer’s former clients were victimized by another scheme, where they are asked to send a $200 fee in exchange for $9,000 in additional payments. If they don’t pay the fee, the victims will be threatened with an arrest.
Amy Nofziger, regional operations director for the AARP Foundation, who coordinates with the Fraud Watch Network, advises seniors to be vigilant with anyone who calls them and claims to be from any government agency. Nofziger suggested that in the event a beneficiary receives any call from suspicious individuals, hang up and call the SSA back using the listed local number or toll-free number 800-772-1213.
She also warned seniors or beneficiaries not to provide any personal information, especially Social Security numbers, to unverifiable individuals. Scammers will get private information and engage in identity theft, where they will use the beneficiary’s name and Social Security number to apply for loans and credit cards.
Nofziger encourages everyone to help fraud watchers by sharing information about such incidents.