How to avoid falling victim to the Social Security imposter scam

People receiving a call claiming their Social Security number was suspended shouldn’t immediately release their personal information — it could be an imposter scam.

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Officials are warning Americans about the “Social Security imposter scam” that has continued to target people throughout the nation in the last year. Just last week, police in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, issued a news release warning residents of the telephone scam making its way through the area.

Here’s how the phone call usually goes.

The caller — a computer-generated voice or a man with a heavy accent — claims to be from the Social Security Administration and announces that they're suspending the targeted person’s Social Security number for criminal or suspicious activity. The scammer then asks for personal information, such as “verifying” the individual’s Social Security number along with bank and credit card details.

Other times, victims are asked to “press 1” to speak to a fake support representative, who then claims to be able to help “reactivate” their Social Security number.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it's received more than 76,000 reports about the scam that led to a reported $19 million in losses in the last year. Those who fall for the scam lose an average of $1,500, though some do report losing tens of thousands of dollars.

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“In the past few months, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database has seen Social Security Administration (SSA) imposter reports skyrocket,” the agency said in an April report.

Here’s how Americans can avoid falling victim to the scam, according to Fraud.org and the FTC.

  • Don’t trust caller ID: Scammers can trick people’s caller ID to make it appear like the call is coming from a government official. Those who do receive a suspicious call should contact Social Security’s customer service at 1-800-772-1213 to set the record straight.
  • Don’t give out personal information: People should never give their Social Security number, bank information or other personal details to an unknown caller. 
  • Social Security will never suspend your number: Fraud.org said it’s highly unlikely the agency would unexpectedly take such drastic actions. Call the SSA to get further confirmation. 
  • Don’t trust the caller just because they know some personal information: It’s most likely a scam if the person on the other end asks to confirm this information, Fraud.org reported.
  • Talk about the experience: Those who’ve been targeted should alert friends and neighbors about the call to spread information.