BBB tip: Protect your Social Security number

Be on the lookout for scam artists that want to get their hands on your Social Security number and, perhaps, your benefits. Social Security scams have been seen plenty of times before, but there are a few new tricks to watch out for. The crooks may use the information they steal to set up an online Social Security account in the victim’s name and redirect payments to their own accounts. The information could also be used for broader identity theft, in which the scammers use the SSN to apply for credit.

Most of these scams are done by email, but there have been reports of crooks turning up on doorsteps claiming to be with the Social Security Administration and demanding information. Here is a list of the 10 most common tricks and excuses the scammers use to try to persuade victims to give up their SSN and bank details.

1. You’re entitled to additional or new benefits, which you can claim by completing a form online.

2. Your cost-of-living adjustment can only be implemented if you provide your SSN and other information.

3. The agency needs to update the information they hold about you.

4. The agency wants to send money they’ve previously underpaid to you.

5. Because of a computer problem your records have been lost and need to be replaced.

6. The agency’s computers are “down,” and they want to arrange to make a manual payment to you.

7. An impostor visits your home and asks to see your Social Security card for supposed security purposes.

8. There’s a problem with your enrollment in a Medicare drug plan.

9. They simply want you to confirm your bank information so they can ensure your payments go through.

10. They need to validate your identity, and, if you fail to provide information, your SSN will be canceled.

Avoiding these scams is relatively straightforward. Look for grammar or spelling errors in emails received regarding your SSN. If you get an unexpected call or visit from someone claiming to be with the SSA, it’s a scam. The real agency always makes an appointment with you first. If you get a call or an email asking you to provide your SSN or other confidential information, it’s a scam. The SSA does not do this. If you have any inquiries, contact your local Social Security office. Report any suspicious behavior to a hotline provided by the Office of Inspector General at 800-269-0271.

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