How to Secure Your Social Security
How to Secure Your Social Security

How to Secure Your Social Security

 

By:

Jill L. Ward
Jill L. Ward
CFP®, CTFA

Partner
Wealth Advisor

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How to Secure Your Social Security

5 tips to avoid compromising important financial data.

More Social. Less Secure.

Your Social Security number is becoming more social and less secure. Scams aiming to steal people’s Social Security numbers are numerous.

In many instances, perpetrators impersonating employees of the Social Security Administration try to get people to reveal Social Security numbers by telling them their information was compromised or used in suspicious or criminal activities. The scammers often use caller ID from what appears to be the Social Security Administration.

The latest scam is the suspended Social Security number scam, in which the caller tells the victim that his or her Social Security number has been suspended due to “suspicious activity.” To un-suspend the number, the scammer says the person must be transferred to a Social Security representative. Once transferred, the victim will be asked for personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security number and birthdate. Sometimes they even request a bank account number and home address in order to “verify” their identity. Oftentimes, the scammer will ask for payment in order to un-suspend the number.

This scam is similar to other telephone fraud schemes based overseas. In 2018, U.S. authorities acted against an India-based fraud operation that allegedly bilked “hundreds of millions of dollars” from consumers by impersonating tax and immigration officials.

Such scams were virtually nonexistent until a few years ago. The Federal Trade Commission has so far this year received nearly 73,000 consumer complaints involving Social Security Administration impostors, with reported consumer losses of $16.94 million. That compares with 39,119 complaints for all of 2018 year and 3,065 for 2017.

The scams have made individuals wary of legitimate dealings with Social Security, including entering their personal information in order to open a my Social Security account. The irony here is that if a client doesn’t set up an account, someone else may do it first. Here is a case where entering personal information online is a protective measure that can actually help prevent identity theft.

The Social Security number scam shows the progression and increasing sophistication of scammers. They often use e-mail to lure people in. One click, and you’re on an official looking website with fake consumer reviews that perfectly mimics Amazon, or online marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay—which are known to ramp up around the holidays. Scammers also hunt for targets on social media platforms where they rely on consumers coming to them. It’s more likely our defenses are down when we are on a site that we choose to visit. It is then very easy to click on an on-line ad.

A recent study of consumer behavior toward fraudulent schemes found that scammers are far more likely to succeed in engaging and stealing money from potential targets by using websites and social media than through the phone calls and emails they have long used. The same study notes that consumers filed 372,000 fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission reporting a total loss of $1.5 billion in 2018, with the number of complaints up 34% from 2017.

Stay Vigilant. Guard Yourself.

All this means we need to be more vigilant in guarding ourselves against scams.

Here are some tips:

1. Be informed.

The Social Security Administration does not seize your accounts or deactivate your Social Security numbers. They will only call if you have already been in contact with them, and they will never ask for your Social Security number or threaten you in any way. Stay on top of scams by reading and/or subscribing to the SSA’s blog at blog.ssa.gov.

2. Don’t talk to unknown individuals.

Government officials and financial experts say consumers should never give Social Security numbers or other personal information to unknown individuals who contact them. Be especially wary of people asking for money or for sensitive personal information.

3. Sign up for a “my Social Security” account.

Thieves have been known to sign up as someone else to redirect Social Security payments to their own account. Prevent this by creating a my Social Security account before they do to “take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name, even if they obtain your Social Security number,” according to a recent SSA blog post.

4. Protect yourself.

Protect your computer by using security software and maintain strong passwords. Secure your information. SSA’s Office of Inspector General offers these tips on scam awareness. If you’re at all suspicious, stop. Hang up, don’t click, stop talking.

5. Get help.

In recent years, banks and investment firms have been stepping up efforts to train employees to detect unusual transaction activities in order to help reduce financial exploitation targeting seniors. We have as well, and we’re here to help you determine what is a legitimate inquiry and what is a scam.

 

Tags:  Cybersecurity, Financial Scamming, Financial Scams, Phishing, Protecting your Assets, Social Security, Social Security Scams

Note:  The content of this article is for guidance and information purposes only and is not intended to be construed as advice. Information provided is not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice.


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