From Forbes —
A troubling new report suggests that a dreaded strain of phone scams targeting Social Security numbers is on the rise.
The Social Security phone scam is by far the most common phone scam this year, with an astonishing 23-fold rise in frequency, according to a report from BeenVerified. Spam calls targeting Social Security numbers accounted for a full 10% of all fraudulent calls, according to the study.
Victims wire money, send gift cards, or surrender personal information to the scammers. Last year, this type of fraud cost Americans $19 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
But the numbers tell only half the story. While more criminals are targeting Social Security numbers, an equally important question is: How? BeenVerified shared the most common Social Security phone scams exclusively with FORBES. And although there are ways to spot these fraudulent calls, the long-term outlook is as troubling as the report itself.
New tactics lure victims into a Social Security phone scam
Scammers know that you’re screening your calls, so they’re resorting to new tactics.
“Scam callers are side-stepping increased consumer awareness about not answering the phone from unknown numbers,” says Justin Lavelle, a spokesman for BeenVerified. “They’re leaving official-sounding voicemails, often with a phone number spoof from a DC-based area code to add some validity to the impostor scam.”
Here are the worst Social Security phone scams, some of which are new:
“Your Social Security number has been suspended.”
The scam: A caller from the Social Security Administration says your Social Security number has been suspended, usually due to “fraudulent,” “suspicious” or “criminal” activity, and you must call back to resolve the matter.
How do you know it’s a scam? Because the government says so. The Social Security Administration doesn’t suspend, revoke, block or freeze Social Security numbers. The agency wouldn’t call you about anything other than personal matters, like benefits claims.
“Your Social Security number has been compromised.”
The scam: Scammers leverage the growing threat of data breaches and identity theft to try to convince you that your Social Security number has been compromised. An automated voice may instruct you to press 1 for more information, which will ultimately direct you to confirm your Social Security number or provide other personal details, like a bank account number.
How do you know it’s a scam? Again, the Social Security Administration does not make these types of calls and will never ask you to confirm your Social Security number over the phone.
“A federal case has been brought against your Social Security number.”
The scam: The alleged Social Security Administration caller tells you that the government has a case or lawsuit against you. You must call back or you will be arrested. In other variations of this scam, you might be told that a “legal procedure” will be initiated if you don’t return the call.
How do you know it’s a scam? The government says it would “never” threaten anyone with arrest for crimes associated with their Social Security number. In other words, calls to the contrary are fraudulent.
“You must send money to dismiss the case against you.”
The scam: This scheme turns things up a notch by asking you to send money to the Social Security Administration, often via gift card, in order to clear your name.
How do you know it’s a scam? The Social Security Administration does not ask taxpayers to wire funds or send money in the form of gift cards. If you really owe the government money, you will receive an official tax notice from the Internal Revenue Service — not the Social Security Administration.
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