Scammers aren’t just relying on robocalls and voice mails to reach potential victims: they’re now texting. The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, recently issued a warning about a new scam involving text messages that appear to come from Social Security. The texts warn about a Social Security number problem and ask the recipient to call a number to resolve the issue and avoid legal action.
This is a trick by identity thieves hoping to steal money and personal identifiable information (PII). Like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration(SSA) will never send a text asking for a return call to an unknown number.
However, SSA may send text messages if you have requested or subscribed to receive updates and notifications from SSA by text, or as part of Social Security’s enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account (two or multi-factor verification).
And, like the IRS, the SSA will never:
- Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
- Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash.
- Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.
Also, the SSA will never promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
If you owe money to the IRS or SSA, you’ll receive a letter with payment options and appeal rights. According to SSA, you should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. You can find out more about IRS payment options here.
Inspector General Ennis has designated March 5, 2020, as National “Slam the Scam” Day to educate every American about these sinister scams. You can learn more at the SSA OIG website.
You can also join Inspector General Ennis and Monica Vaca, Associate Director, Consumer Response and Operations at the Federal Trade Commission, for a special joint Facebook Live. It’s called “Slam the Scam: That call is not from Social Security,” and starts at 7:00 p.m. E.T. on March 5, 2020.
When in doubt, assume it’s a scam. If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call back using an official number (don’t just use the caller I.D. number on your phone since those can be spoofed). To reach IRS, call 1.800.829.1040. To contact Social Security, call 1.800.772.1213.
If you know for sure that it’s a scam, don’t engage with scammers or thieves, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam, or you think that you can beat them. Just hang up or delete the email. You can find more tips on protecting yourself from identity-theft-related tax fraud here.
And one more thing: the SSA encourages you to please share scam awareness information with friends and family to help them avoid becoming victims.