Many seniors are reporting that they’ve received calls or robocalls along these lines:
“Your Social Security account has been compromised.”
“Your account has been reported for illegal activity and the funds in your bank account will be seized.”
“The Social Security computers are down and we need to verify your information.”
“Good news—your benefit is being raised. We just need you to confirm your bank account number.”
Callers sometimes threaten victims with arrest, a fine, or the suspension of their Social Security or Medicare benefits. The crook may demand money, in the form of cash, a wire transfer, or gift cards.
Sometimes, instead of asking for money, the caller demands to know the senior’s Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and other personal information to “clear the problem.” The crooks can use this data to raid a senior’s bank account, run up their credit cards or otherwise impersonate them.
According to the Inspector General of Social Security, these con artists are using caller-ID “spoofing” so that it appears that a call is coming from Washington, DC and even from the SSA itself. These fraudsters are constantly coming up with new angles. Believe it or not, in one of the most recent variations, they even pretend to be the Inspect General’s Fraud Hotline itself!
Phone calls aren’t their only approach. They might send an official-looking letter with a number to call, or send emails that include a link to a fake Social Security website they’ve created.
Awareness is the key to protecting seniors from these scams
Learn about these scams, and share the information with older friends, loved ones and their caregivers. The SSA and the Federal Trade Commission offer advice to help Social Security beneficiaries avoid being scammed:
How can we protect the Social Security of ourselves and older loved ones?
Sadly, older adults can be vulnerable to the wiles of con artists. Cognitive changes, unfamiliarity with new technologies and social isolation might make them less suspicious. And unlike many younger folks, they will often answer the phone. Seniors with memory loss are especially vulnerable to the wiles of con artists. If you are worried about a loved one, talk to an aging life care professional (geriatric care manager), an elder law attorney or financial advisor about how you can help them avoid being defrauded and otherwise manage their money.
And remember—even many seniors who are pretty savvy have fallen for these types of scams. The con artists are that skilled! If a loved one has been targeted, encourage them not only to report it, but to share their story with others. Passing on a cautionary tale can help your loved one feel empowered and to know they are doing a good thing for others. It’s too bad that today, we need to have our guard up all the time—but a healthy dose of skepticism goes a long way in protecting our money. Spread the word!