A Suspended Social Security Number Scam Is Making Its Rounds: How to Identify and Report a Fraudulent Call

Tax season is a time rife with phone scammers as fraudulent callers attempt to cash in on citizens' fear of the IRS, tax audits and the government in general. But fake IRS calls aren't the only tricks scammers are using this tax season. According to several local news reports, a Social Security scam is preying on senior citizens this year.

On Friday, ABC11 reported on victims who receive calls from scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. The callers claim that the victims have committed a criminal act and that the government has suspended their Social Security number and filed a lawsuit against them. Victims are instructed to call a specific number, where they will be asked for personal information. They'll also be told that they must pay a fine to end the lawsuit and recover their Social Security numbers.

In another version of the scam, which has been concentrated in the Monroe County, N.Y., area, victims are told their Social Security number has been suspended due to "suspicious activity" and are asked to press 1 to be connected with a Social Security representative.

In both scams, the endgame is acquiring personal information from the victim and soliciting payment of some kind to "reactivate" a Social Security number. Scammers have reportedly requested payments via methods ranging from wire transfers to gift cards.

#ScamAlert: Victim received call from someone pretending to be @SocialSecurity Administration & told victim her social security # was suspended. Victim was told to purchase $3,000 in @GooglePlay gift cards to unsuspended account, which she did & gave scammer card numbers. #HangUp pic.twitter.com/BrBtndQmzO

— NYPD 19th Precinct (@NYPD19Pct) March 18, 2019

While the suspended Social Security number scam first surfaced last summer, the calls have become prevalent enough in the past month that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a series of tweets about them, and what to do if you receive such a call.

"Government imposter scams made up nearly half of the 535,417 imposter scam reports to the FTC in 2018. Many government imposter scam reports involved fraudsters who pretended to be from @SocialSecurity. The scammers tell people their Social Security number has been suspended, or that there's some other problem to get them to reveal their SSN or pay to "reactivate" it. In reality, Social Security numbers are NEVER suspended and @SocialSecurity will NEVER require you to pay to obtain one."

The FTC has offered the following tips to protect yourself against fraudulent callers:

  • Never give out or confirm personal information over the phone, via email or on a website until you've checked out whoever is asking you for it.
  • Do not trust a name, phone number or email address just because it seems to be connected with the government. Con artists use official-sounding names and may fake caller ID or email address information to make you trust them. Besides, the government normally contacts people by postal mail.
  • Contact government agencies directly, using telephone numbers and website addresses you know are legitimate.
  • If you receive a scam government call, report it to the FTC.

If you aren't sure if a government communication (call, text, email or letter) is fraudulent, contact your local Social Security office or call Social Security's toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213 to verify its legitimacy. Callers who are deaf or hard of hearing can call Social Security's TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.