The Social Security Administration (SSA) is warning seniors for the fourth time this year about fraudulent communications targeting their Social Security and Medicare benefits.
“In the old days, a con man would be good-looking, suave, well-dressed, well-spoken and presented themselves real well. Those days are gone because it’s not necessary. The people committing these crimes are doing them from hundreds of miles away.” Frank Abagnale
In Don’t Be Misled by False Medicare or Social Security Ads, Jim Borland, acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications at the Social Security Administration said there’s a lot of information, online and elsewhere, and it can be hard to distinguish which sources are scams. Scammers prey on those who are searching for Social Security program and benefit information.
Advertisements using the words “Social Security” and/or “Medicare” can mislead people. Borland said, “Misleading Social Security and Medicare advertising is against the law. . . Individuals and non-government businesses. . . can’t lead people to believe that they represent, are somehow affiliated with, or endorsed or approved by Social Security or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Medicare).”
There are also companies and individuals who charge for services that are provided through the SSA free of charge. Seniors need “to be on the lookout for these and other services that unscrupulous individuals or companies may offer for a fee, including obtaining:
- A corrected Social Security card showing a person’s married name:
- A Social Security card to replace a lost card;
- A Social Security statement; and
- A Social Security number for a child.” (Borland)
Anyone who has received misleading information about Social Security or Medicare, should send the entire ad, including the envelope, to:
Office of the Inspector General Fraud Hotline, Social Security Administration, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235.
Gale Stallworth Stone, the acting inspector general of the SSA, also warns about “ongoing SSA impersonation schemes following the SSA and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) receiving several reports of suspicious phone calls claiming to be from SSA.”
This scam started in October 2013, and has claimed over $29 million from its victims. This is another one of the many scams designed to deceive Social Security recipients. These fraudulent calls can come in in many forms. A few examples are:
- An automated recording warning that if you don’t contact SSA (through the provided phone number) about illegal activity involving your Social Security Number (SSN), your assets will be frozen until the issue is resolved.
- A caller claiming to be from “SSA headquarters”, attempting to get personal information from you (like your Social Security Number, date of birth, etc.).
- A caller claiming to help you complete a disability application or some other form of SSA or Medicare paperwork.
“Stone urges everyone to stay vigilant of impersonation schemes and to not be afraid to hang up.”
“The following are tips from the SSA about potentially fraudulent calls and how to look out for them:
Remember that you’re in control and that the SSA will never do any of the following:
- Call you to demand an immediate payment;
- Demand that you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe;
- Require a specific means of payment, such as requiring you to pay with a prepaid debit card:
- Ask you for your personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone: or
- Threaten you with arrest or deportation.” (Forbes)
The SSA warns you not to provide any information in response to scam calls or emails. Instead you should:
- Hang up immediately;
- Contact Social Security’s Office of Inspector General, for Social Security impersonations;
- Use the telephone numbers provided in the notice, call 1-800-772-1213, or visit socialsecurity.gov if you receive a notice from Social Security.
Stone says, “It’s better to be safe than sorry. Be aware of suspicious calls from unknown sources, and when in doubt, contact the official entity to verify the legitimacy of the call.”
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