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SOCIAL SECURITY (US only)

Bad guys like Social Security scams because senior citizens are often not clued in to Defensive Computing. Thus, the first thing Seniors should remember is:

Rules of the road

And then, act appropriately.

The website for the Social Security Administration is www.ssa.gov

From an email the Social Security Administration sent in December 2022:

" Scammers frequently target the older and other more vulnerable members of our communities. They pretend they are from Social Security or another government agency to steal your money or personal information. Caller ID, texts, or documents sent by email may look official, but they are not. Fraudsters are calling to verify information about the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment for people who get benefits ... this adjustment is automatic and a beneficiary does not need to verify anything. Social Security won’t ask you to provide information or money to get your benefit increase. ... we will never ask for personal information via email or text.

... These scams primarily use the telephone to contact you, but scammers may also use email, text messages, social media, or U.S. mail. Scammers pretend to be from an agency or organization you know to gain your trust. Scammers say there is a problem with your Social Security number or account. Scammers pressure you to act immediately. Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.
"

Advice from SSA: Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams. Last updated March 2023.

Advice from SSA: What should I do if I get a call claiming there's a problem with my Social Security number or account? Last Updated December 16, 2022.

The main phone number for the Social Security Administration is (800) 772-1213.

Apparently, the Social Security Administration does, at times, call people, which makes everything harder. The safe thing to do is to call them back at either the national number (see it above), or, call a local office which you can find using their Office Locator.

Advice from SSA: After you have a My Social Security account, add an e-services block, which prevents anyone, including you, from seeing or changing your personal information online. From the agency: How You Can Help Us Protect Your Social Security Number and Keep Your Information Safe (PDF).

Someone who needs help dealing with Social Security can have a designated helper. The offical term for the helper is a "representative payee". More on this at the SSA website: Representative Payee.

The Social Security Administration offers updates on many many different topics. You can subscribe via email or text. This service is not part of an ssa.gov account.

Report Social Security scams to 800-269-0271 or secure.ssa.gov/ipff/home or oig.ssa.gov/report.

I saved my sister from a Social Security scam. Listen to the actual call. by Michelle Singletary in the Washington Post. July 9, 2021. In 2020, victims were swindled out of nearly $45 million in Social Security-related telephone scams. The average individual loss was $5,800. The scam: claiming that your Social Security number has been compromised because of criminal activity. Unless you respond immediately, your Social Security number will be suspended or you may even go to jail. The bad guys want money, gift cards or to learn your bank account details. Social Security numbers can not be suspended.

If your Social Security number is stolen or leaked in a data breach:

  1. FTC: at the Federal Trade Commission's IdentityTheft.gov website, fill out the form to receive a personal recovery plan. This plan has information on protecting yourself from fraud and recovering your identity. Or, call the FTC at 877-438-4337.
  2. IRS: Contact the Internal Revenue Service to prevent the bad guys from using your number to file a tax return and receive your tax refund. Another scam is that bad guys use your stolen Social Security number to get a job. In this case, any taxes owed may show up on your record. Visit the IRS's Identity Theft Central to dispute these claims.
  3. ICCC: File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. They monitor cybercrime complaints.
  4. Credit: Check your credit report periodically to look for anything fishy. Free reports are availble at www.annualcreditreport.com
  5. Of course: Contact the Social Security Administration

Americans under retirement age should open an account at ssa.gov. Not because someone who is 33 years old needs it, but to insure that bad guys with your personal information, stolen in a data breach, do not open an account in your name.

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