Social Security benefits are a great resource that helps older Americans, workers who become disabled, and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today, about 167 million people work and pay Social Security taxes and about 59 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. Signing up for benefits is completely free, which is why scammers are beginning to target those that are eligible for benefits and using their social security number to sign up before they can. Those individuals age 62 or over are ones that are most likely to be targeted in an attempt to steal their retirement benefits.
How is this possible?
- Scammers use personal information from victims; this information may be through several different methods. With this personal information, scammers create a “My Social Security” account.
- Scammers then apply for available funds. If there is a lump sum that is due to the victim, the scammer will most likely request it. They will then proceed to use direct deposit to put the money into their personal bank account.
- Once the funds are in their account, the scammer withdraws all the money and closes out the bank account immediately. Scammers put all the funds on gift cards to decrease the possibilities of the money being tracked.
How can I avoid this or help others?
- Set up your “my Social Security” account as soon as possible at ssa.gov. Only one account can be opened per number, so setting up your account early and applying for your benefits will decrease the potential of being targeted.
- Avoid giving away personal information about yourself through email, phone call, or social media. No need to ever give away personal information on social media, e-mail, or through phone calls. Even if they are offering money or anything that is supposed to “benefit” you.
- This account allows you to view your benefits information, including disability, family benefits, and retirement benefits. Keep this information locked away and again, DO NOT share it with anyone.
As more and more information becomes available on the internet, scammers will eagerly step in to harvest it for their schemes. Protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping them informed, alert, and educated on different ways that scammers gather information. And if you feel something is too good to be true, it probably is!
Source: AARP Fraud Watch Network
If you are a victim of this scam, you will probably have to visit your local Social Security Administration office to resolve it. You can find contact information at https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp.