Lately, I've noticed an uptick in scam calls. It was quiet for some time (thank you very much!), but as of late I've been receiving multiple calls each and every day. How annoying, especially when caller IDs are being spoofed and it appears to be from a local number.
Sometimes though, these call can turn into much more than a nuisance. Sometimes scammers pretend to be government employees and use scare tactics to threaten, and intimidate you into giving them personal information - or worse - money. Please don't be fooled! Hang up, and go about your business and/or report the number. You can report scam callers pretending to be from the Social Security Administration at oig.ssa.gov.
What to watch out for when you are not sure
The anatomy of scam calls:
- there's often a delay when you answer the phone (typical for auto-dialers)
- they may ask for your business instead of your name and/or another member of your household
- it's a recording urging you to not hang up, this is an important message/serious business
- they employ scare tactics: if you don't press 1 now/speak with us immediately, your social security number will be suspended/you will be arrested/the sheriff is on his way
- they ask you to settle your debt by purchasing gift cards, money orders or pre-paid debit cards, or to wire money, or send cash
- they insult you/get angry when you voice any doubts/question them - the threat level increases
What can you do? How can you protect yourself?
Unfortunately, even with apps and add-ons designed to filter out scam calls, it's a sophisticated "business" that will keep on evolving and scare people into complying as long as they see some success. Please don't be fooled! Watch out for the common characteristics above, don't answer the phone or hang up when you do. When in doubt, please remind yourself that the SSA will not threaten you. Your social security number will not be suspended. They will not ask you to wire money or purchase gift cards.
Think twice before you give out your cell phone numbers, or partake in seemingly harmless social media "games" to find out Which Disney Character you are or How many lives you've lived or When and how you will die. You are actually giving them permission to access your personal profile and who knows what else. Please exercise caution!
Put your shredder to good use! Shred all letters, receipts, invoices, statements etc. anything that has personal information on it.
Report imposters and scam callers. It may seem like a hopeless cause but you never know.. it could be your report that leads to an arrest. For scams involving the SSA, file a report at oig.ssa.gov.
Don't carry your social security card around with you.
Watch out for click baits, and websites that look like the original. Be mindful of the links you click and websites you visit.
Should you have fallen victim to a scammer/imposter, don't waste your time on shame, but report, and take steps to protect yourself from further damage. Please! It's happened to (too) many, you are (unfortunately) not alone.
Don't be fooled! Social security scams et al share the same anatomy. Be aware. Use common sense. Trust your gut feeling.
P.S. REALTORS® will not ask you for your social security number. We do not need it! Years ago our forms (specifically the Financial Disclosure Form) had a space for it, but it has long been deleted. We do not need your social to represent you, to go house-hunting, to write offers, to list your property. We will ask you for a copy of your driver's license and to meet up at the office/a public place - that is routine procedure to protect ourselves, but we will not ask your for your social security number.