Retirement

Beat The Latest Scams To Steal Your Identity and Social Security Benefits

The world’s thieves and scam artists constantly change their methods, and you have to keep up with them to protect yourself.

Not long ago the major scam involved IRS imposters demanding immediate payment over the phone using gift cards. The incidents of that scam are greatly reduced. The main scammers were traced to India, and law enforcement in India arrested many of the perpetrators at call centers.

Con artists have developed new scams, however, and are using Social Security as the bait.

A caller impersonating a Social Security employee says that the Social Security number of the person being called has been suspended due to fraudulent activity involving the number. The fake Social Security employee says the person being called needs to take immediate action to have the number reinstated.

Sometimes the call is less threatening. The caller says Social Security’s computers are down and the government needs to confirm the person’s Social Security number to keep it from being suspended.

An alternative scam uses email to make the same claims. The recipient will be advised to click on a link in the email and follow the instructions on the web page it brings up.

The intent of these scams is to have you provide your Social Security number and other important information to the crooks. The Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration both have advised that Social Security wouldn’t call or email people under either of these circumstances.

I f Social Security identifies a problem with your number or account, it will send you a letter. It won’t call you and ask for your number of other important information.

Social Security does send emails reminding people to review their benefits statements to ensure their earnings history is correct. These emails are sent if you established a “my Social Security” account on the Social Security web site and provided an email address.

To be on the safe side, though, don’t click on any links in an email purporting to be from Social Security. You can’t be sure if the email is legitimate or a scam. If you want to check your earnings history or other information, open your Internet browser and enter the address of the Social Security web site (www.socialsecurity.gov). Or call Social Security.

Another scam occurs after the crooks obtained your Social Security number and other information, often by buying it from other crooks. Anyone age 62 and older is vulnerable to this scam.

The crooks open a “my Social Security” account in your name or gain access to your account. Then, they change your address and the financial account to which benefits are deposited. If you aren’t already receiving benefits, they apply for your benefits and have them deposited in one of their bank accounts. By the time you learn what’s happened and contact Social Security, the thieves have received a couple of benefit checks and perhaps years of them if you hadn’t planned to apply for benefits for a while.

A good form of protection is to open a “my Social Security” account at www.socialsecurity.gov. The account lets you check your earnings history, estimated benefits, and other information at any time. It also lets you use SSA’s calculator to receive customized benefit estimates under different scenarios instead of the standard scenarios in the basic benefits estimates.

The account also lets you avoid theft. You can see if anyone applied for benefits in your name or tried to change the financial account in which your benefits are deposited. It’s a good idea to log in to your account every few months to see if there’s been any activity, especially if you’re at least age 62 and don’t plan to apply for benefits for a few years.

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