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Social Security Scams – How to Recognize and Avoid Them

March 28, 2022

stack of one hundred dollar bills depositing into ATM

Like the ever-popular IRS Scams, Social Security scams are prevalent. And like most scams, they follow a familiar formula. They start with a “hook,” which is where they present a problem and use fear to get you to act. This is followed by the “ask,” where they get you to give them your money or gift cards to fix the so-called problem. And finally comes the “damage,” which in most cases, can’t be undone. Here’s how social security scams work.

The Hook

The scam starts with you getting a call from the “Social Security Administration.” The scammer on the line tells you a story that entails something like a vehicle found out of state containing drugs and associated with a recent murder. Then they’ll tell you the vehicle is connected to YOUR social security number.

The scammer will try to work you into a heightened emotional state, using scare tactics. They may even tell you the police are on their way to arrest you unless you do exactly as they say. They will tell you not to tell anyone, and not to call or go to the police because you will be arrested if you do.

The Ask

The scammer will proceed to tell you to go to your bank or credit union and withdraw cash. They’ll insist you not tell the tellers what’s going on. Many times, they will have you pull out large sums of money and either wire it to them or use a payment app to “pay” a fine to keep you out of jail. They may even ask you to buy gift cards and instruct you to send the gift card codes to them. Scammers love gift cards because they’re essentially untraceable.

The Damage

Once the cash is taken out and spent, there is usually no way to get that money back. After you send it via wire, payment app, or gift card codes, scammers quickly spend the funds before you realize what’s happening. While you’re trying to get a resolution for this non-existent situation, the scammers abscond with your funds.

How to Avoid this Scam

  • Understand how the real Social Security Administration works:
    1. They will NEVER call you.
    2. If there’s an issue with your social security number or a vehicle, they will send you an official certified letter.
    3. They do not act on behalf of law enforcement.
  • Don’t panic. Scammers are successful because they play on fear and their victim’s heightened emotional state. Take a minute to pause and think about the situation before doing anything.
  • If you’re worried about the situation the caller presented, hang up and call a verified number; or better yet, go to your local Social Security office. They can tell you if there really IS an issue with your social security number or any associated vehicles.
  • Never use gift cards as a form of payment. Real government agencies and businesses don’t accept gift cards as payment.

Don’t hesitate to have conversations with us when these kinds of situations arise. RCU branch and call center professionals are trained to recognize scams and are always ready to make sure you and your money are safe.