Social Security Scams
Common Social Security Scams to Watch Out For
When receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) or Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits in Florida, it is vital that you be aware of the nature and form of common Social Security scams proliferating the marketplace.
Whenever your name, address, and other personally identifying information are subject to open scrutiny by nefarious parties through participation in a government benefits program, you are likely to receive, on any given, day a misleading solicitation.
The key to understanding that an email, letter, or phone-call received is knowing in advance what the indicators of fraud with regard to Social Security benefits are.
This Article is intended to educate you as to some of the features to look for in a fraudulent communication or solicitation apparently sent by the Social Security Administration, the US Government generally, or the State of Florida.
How Common Are Social Security Scams?
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), Social Security scams now outnumber all other types of consumer scams.
Given that 69.1 million people in the United States receive SSD or SSI benefits, the pool, for scammers, of potential targets is enormous.
Too enormous to resist, in fact.
This is particularly true given the fact that the majority of those receiving Social Security benefits are elderly and, thus, less likely to be sophisticated with regard to the use of protective email, internet, and banking security protocols.
The odds of a scammer finding a susceptible and even accidentally willing victim among the class of Social Security beneficiaries in the US are, thus, higher than as regards other potential classes of victim, whose members may be younger and more electronically savvy.
If you are receiving Social Security Disability or Social Security Insurance benefits in Florida, the odds are, given all of that, very good that you have received at least one scam solicitation since you’ve begun receiving your benefits.
The odds are good, in fact, that you’ve received more than one—or even one or two every week.
So what are the indicators that a communication that seems very “official” is, in fact, a scam?
Typical Indications That of Social Security Scams
These are some key things to watch out for in a communication if you are concerned that you might be the target of Social Security scams.
Threatens Arrest or Other Legal Action
Any telephone call or letter threatening you with arrest or legal action if you do not make a payment or provide personal information is a scam.
The SSA will never threaten to “suspend” your Social Security Number.
This is true not only with regard to Social Security benefits but even true with regard to commercial debts that you may actually owe.
Most states, including Florida, prohibit such collection methods by law. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) not only prohibits such practices but provides a cause of action for you to take a collector employing such threats to Federal Court to sue them for damages and your Florida attorney’s fees.
Of course, a scam is a scam, and it’s difficult to nail such bad actors down. Often, the origin point for such phone calls and letters is outside of the United States entirely.
The best way for you to protect yourself is to hang up the phone, delete (and spam-flag) the email, and/or shred and discard the mailed letter you received.
Bad Grammar, Spelling Mistakes, Broken English
The Social Security Administration is pretty good at typing up letters without obvious spelling errors, typographical errors, and other such issues.
It also manages to convey communications properly utilizing the rules of grammar and does not typically drop articles, fail to conjugate verbs, or address letters with your initials only or your middle name.
Or any other variety of weird grammar or spelling mistake.
If you receive an email or letter chock full of grammar issues, spelling mistakes, odd name configurations, or other such glaring errors, it is not likely to have originated with the SSA.
Demands for Payment Using Wire Transfer, Gift Cards, or Other Unorthodox Methods
Likewise, if you receive any solicitation requesting that you make payment, first, to any third party other than the Social Security Administration or, second, via any strange method of payment, be wary of complying with the demand.
If the SSA requires payment from you, it will contact you via postal letter with specific instructions as to how to make that payment.
It does not utilize third party collectors or processers. It certainly does not request payment via wire transfer or using gift cards or other unorthodox (and untraceable) means of payment.
If you need to make a legitimate payment to the Social Security Administration, it will be to a proper US government mailing address by check made payable to the US government.
Offering to Increase Your Benefit Amount for Payment
Any letter, phone call, or email from a private company or organization offering to increase your monthly Social Security benefits amount in exchange for payment is attempting to scam you.
The SSA does not reach out to Florida SSD or SSI beneficiaries with offers to increase their monthly benefits amounts.
Increases come, generally, by way of annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that are implemented on a widescale basis and not on a person-to-person basis.
If you believe that your benefits amount is incorrect or that you did not receive a proper COLA adjustment in a given year, you need to directly contact the SSA or a licensed Florida Disability Attorney on your own to initiate that conversation.
Anyone offering to finagle you an SSD or SSI monthly increase in exchange for payment is scamming you.
Requesting Personally Identifiable Information
The Social Security Administration is already well aware of your Social Security Number. It already knows the name and birthdate of each and every US citizen or permanent resident who has been issued a Social Security Number.
In fact, the SSA issued you that number to begin with (although you were probably a little too young to remember it happening!).
Thus, the SSA would never contact you by telephone, mail, or email to request that you send them your Social Security Number.
The SSA does not need your bank account number to be provided in response to any such communication. Or your birth date. Or your children’s birthdates.
Or any other private, personal information through which your identity can be stolen and your financial accounts accessed, or with which new financial accounts might be opened.
Be highly suspicious of any communication requesting such information from you.
How the Social Security Administration Will Legitimately Inform You of Issues
The Social Security Administration will contact you via US mail when it has something to tell you. It will only text your cellphone if you have proactively opted to receive messages via that method from the SSA, or if it is engaging in 2-factor authentication for your online access to its website. Again, it will do that, even, only if you have proactively, yourself, opted to receive such texts.
The SSA does not email benefits recipients.
If you have any question about whether any communication received, even by US mail, is actually from the SSA, either phone the SSA (using the phone number published on its website or in the phonebook: not the one on the possibly fraudulent letter you’ve received!) or visit one of its offices in Orlando, Maitland, or elsewhere in Florida.
What To Do If You Receive a Social Security Scams Communication
If you believe you have received Social Security scams solicitation, you should, first, verify that the SSA is not legitimately attempting to contact you by contacting them yourself.
In many cases, when the above-described scam indicators are present, the scam will be obvious. However, if you aren’t sure, check. And, again, don’t check by calling the number on the dubious letter or email you’ve received. If it’s a scam, that phone-number will simply ring somewhere in Manila or Nigeria or elsewhere and not in Washington, DC.
When you are sure that you have received a scam Social Security communication, the first step is to refrain from responding to it. Block that phone-number. Spam-flat that email address. Do not reply. Do not pick up the phone.
In many cases, the scammers are simply looking for “live” phone-numbers that can be sold as such on the dark web. Just answering the phone and saying, “Hello?” gives them what they want. Let strange numbers go to voicemail instead.
However, once you’ve protected yourself, you can take a few further steps to try and mitigate the harm that these Social Security scammers cause to others.
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here.
- Report the scam to the SSA Office of Inspector General here, or at its General Fraud Hotline: (800) 269-0271.
- Report the scam to the Florida Attorney General’s Office here.
If You Need to Apply for Florida Social Security Disability, Contact Us Now
If you live in Orlando or Maitland or elsewhere in Central Florida and are interested in applying for Social Security Disability Benefits, contact us now.
The Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, PA, offers free consultations and friendly, expert service to Florida residents.