Burke: Know how to identify Social Security scammers

Posted 8/29/20

The most effective way to defeat scammers is to know how to identify scams.  You should just hang up on any call you’re uncertain of and ignore suspicious emails.  Scammers are always …

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Burke: Know how to identify Social Security scammers


The most effective way to defeat scammers is to know how to identify scams.  You should just hang up on any call you’re uncertain of and ignore suspicious emails.  Scammers are always finding new ways to steal your money and personal information by exploiting your fears.

One common tactic scammers use is posing as federal agents and other law enforcement. They may claim your Social Security number is linked to a crime. They may even threaten to arrest you if you do not comply with their instructions. Just hang up. 

As a reminder, you should continue to remain vigilant of phone calls when someone says there’s a problem with your Social Security number or your benefits. If you owe money to Social Security, we will mail you a letter explaining your rights, payment options, and information about appealing. 

There are a few ways you can identify a scam call. If you do business with us, remember that we will never:

  • Threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency or prepaid debit card.
  • Demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem.
  • Send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

If you do not have ongoing business with our agency, it is unlikely we will contact you. If you get a suspicious call claiming to be from Social Security, you should hang up and report it to our law enforcement office at oig.ssa.gov.

There are many online sources for Social Security information, but you need to make sure you’re getting the right information. By using www.ssa.gov, you know that what you’re reading and watching is approved by our experts and specifically created for you.

Here are three of our resources where you can find valuable information about your Social Security benefits.

Our blog — Stay informed about our latest news, retirement planning tips, and other helpful information. Our blog at blog.ssa.gov features messages direct from our commissioner as well as information from expert contributors. From there, you can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, where you can watch our popular videos.

“my Social Security” — You’re in control with many services available online through my Social Security. Creating a secure account will help you conduct Social Security business from home. With your personal my Social Security account, you can:

  • Estimate your future benefits with our Retirement Calculator to compare different dates or ages to begin receiving benefits.
  • Check the status of your Social Security application.
  • Review your work history.

If you already receive benefits, you can also:

  • Get a benefit verification or proof-of-income letter.
  • Set up or change your direct deposit.
  • Change your address.
  • Request a replacement Medicare card.
  • Get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099).

You may also be able to quickly request a replacement card online with a my Social Security account, if you meet certain qualifications listed at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

Frequently asked questions: Do you have to pay taxes on Social Security benefits? How do you apply for Social Security retirement benefits? What is your full retirement age? Discover the answers to your Social Security related questions at our Frequently Asked Questions page at www.ssa.gov/faq.

With so many services available online, we are here for you when your schedule allows. Be sure to tell friends and family about all the business they can do with us from the comfort of their home at www.ssa.gov.

Editor's note: Chris Burke is a Social Security district manager based in Glendale.