Regardless of who you are or where you live, there's a good chance you've received a scam email or phone call. As hard as we try, we can't seem to filter them out. Even as we add callers and emails to blocked or spam lists, scammers are able to still get through. And they go to great lengths to get information and/or money from us.

A number of common scams target Social Security benefits. These scams generally involve criminals who impersonate Social Security workers or companies, so they can obtain Social Security numbers and other personal information. Here's a list of some of the most common Social Security scams and what to do if you think you've been targeted.

63,000+

The number of reports received about Social Security phone scams by the FTC since January 2018.

Extra Social Security Checks

One popular scam is a direct mail scam that primarily targets senior citizens. A letter comes in the mail offering an extra security check, along with a form asking for personal information and a filing fee.

In the letter, the scammer asks the recipient for a Social Security number, money and bank account information to help with the application. However, the Social Security Administration will never ask for a full Social Security number since it already knows it.

In the event the administration does send you a letter—say, for instance, when your benefits increase—it will never ask you for money or any other personal information.

Fraudulent Phone Calls

There are many common scams that use phone calls to harvest your personal information. They range from offering new Social Security cards to offering additional funds and rebates. The caller may ask for your Social Security number and bank information to process requests.

The caller may suggest a number of different reasons behind the call. For instance, he or she may say the Social Security networks are down or that there is a Medicare prescription drug program enrollment pending. The caller may also threaten the suspension of your SSN or say your bank account will be seized. None of this is true.

$1,484

The median loss reported by the FTC of those victimized by the SSA phone call scam since January 2018.

People who receive phone calls of any kind asking for Social Security numbers should be wary of these types of scams and hang up immediately. You may also want to consider adding these phone numbers to a blocked call list to help prevent repeated nuisance calls.

Fake Email Headers and Phishing

Scammers often design emails to look as if they have been sent from the Social Security Administration. They may even direct readers to a website designed to look like an official government website. Just because it appears to be official doesn't mean it is.

Be aware the Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General have publicly stated that any email from the Social Security Administration asking for personal information is a scam.

How to Protect Yourself

The most important way you can keep yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft or losing money to scammers is to stay vigilant. Remember, no government agency will ever ask you for your personal information or money. Unless there's a change to your Social Security benefits, you will not get an email or letter. And you won't be asked to click on a link—so if you get one, don't click.

Keep your information stored securely. Make sure your Social Security card is kept in a safe place. Be sure to shred any documents with sensitive information rather than putting them in the trash. Keep your passwords to yourself and change them often to ensure your accounts aren't being hacked.

Check your credit reports on a regular basis to make sure no one has compromised your financial information.

Finally, keep up to date with all of the scams going on in your area or any that may affect you. If you are suspicious, don't follow through with any requests, but call your local authorities to verify their legitimacy.

Report the Scam

If you feel you may have been a victim of a scam or want to report anything suspicious, you have several options. You can call your local authorities or the OIG hotline at 800-269-0271, or fill out a public fraud reporting form at the Social Security website's fraud page. You can also report the scam on the FTC's complaint website.

Make sure you document anything you can to add to your report such as a telephone number or website, name of the person, time and date of the call or email, information requested by the caller or sender, and anything else that may identify the person who made the call.

Key Takeaways

  • Scammers use email and phone to impersonate Social Security personnel to trick people into giving up money and personal information.
  • Common tactics include sending real-looking emails and letters or threatening the suspension of Social Security benefits or numbers.
  • The Social Security Administration never asks for personal information or money.
  • Scams should be reported to your local authorities, the Office of the Inspector General, or the Federal Trade Commission.