SAN ANTONIO – Social Security payments are going up, and with that comes an increase in calls from scammers, the U.S. government warns.
The Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration issued a scam alert Thursday.
What you need to know about this scam
The warning states, “that unexpected offer from the SSA to activate a benefit increase is not the real SSA.”
As is typical, unscrupulous people appear to be taking advantage of current events.
“Confusion is their friend,” said Zulfikar Ramzan, cybersecurity scientist and CEO of Aura Labs.
The period when people have questions is the window for criminals to strike, he said.
“Scammers are going to come out of the woodwork, telling people they can help them get their increase faster or tell them they need to re-enroll or even threaten that their benefits will be cut off entirely,” Ramzan said.
But it’s all lies. The truth is the Social Security Administration will mail notices in December to recipients.
The boost, as usual for cost of living increases, is automatic. Recipients don’t have to do a thing.
The OIG alert said there are reports that criminals are trying to trick people into sharing personal or financial information over the phone, through text or via email by luring them to a fake website.
Fraudsters may also attempt to get people to click on a link or pay for a bigger or earlier increase.
Con artists have been pretending to call from the Social Security Administration for years, often preying on emotions and fear. They threaten imminent arrest if requests or demands are not met.
Consumers reported more than 217,000 Social Security-related scams to the Federal Trade Commission in 2021. Those accounted for nearly $150 million in losses.
“Anybody who asks for prepayment or sensitive information over the phone or email or website you found because of them, that would be a red flag,” Ramzan said.
Tips to help you spot the scam
- Fraud experts say to be skeptical when you are unexpectedly contacted by someone claiming to be the government.
- To protect yourself, never wire money or pay using a gift card.
- Don’t trust the Caller ID. Scammers can fake that number.
- Don’t take immediate action. Instead, hang up and talk to someone you trust.