Social Security Scams--How to Protect Yourself From Fraud

Social Security Scams—How to Protect Yourself From Fraud

July 11, 2019

We wanted to tell you about a widespread telephone scam that targets your Social Security number or your wallet. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

Scammers call people and say their Social Security number has been compromised. The caller then asks you to give them your number so that they can “confirm” or “reactivate” it. They may claim your bank account is at risk. Sometimes they’ll ask for credit card information or for you to buy gift cards and share the codes (at which point they take the money and run). Often, they use imposing government titles such as “an officer with the Inspector General of Social Security.” All bogus.

The key to this trick? “Spoofing” technology that makes it appear the call is coming from Social Security. Unfortunately, caller ID is no longer 100% reliable. The caller ID on your phone may say “Social Security Administration.” The voice on the other end belongs to a crook.

Remember:

  • Social Security does not make unsolicited phone calls. And it will never block or suspend your number—this is a major red flag.
  • Social Security employees do not ask for your Social Security number. Never provide this unless you know and trust the person you’re speaking with.
  • Social Security personnel will never threaten consequences—arrest, loss or suspension of benefits—if you fail to provide personal information or payments.

What to do:

  • If you get an unexpected call from Social Security, hang up.
  • Avoid calling a number left on a voice message or clicking on a link in an unsolicited email. If you’re unsure, call the Social Security Administration’s customer-service line at (800) 772-1213 to report it.

Never give your Social Security number or other personal or financial information to someone claiming to be from Social Security. Don’t send them money, either.

Other Common Frauds to Avoid

These schemes aren’t limited to phony Social Security officials. Telephone scammers are increasingly targeting senior citizens—who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average—with financially and emotionally manipulative tactics.

The ploys below may seem obvious to many of us, but it’s worth making sure your friends and loved ones are educated on these kinds of scams. Some common financial ruses include:

  • The Pigeon Drop: The right to large sum of money is promised in exchange for a “good faith” payment withdrawn from an individual’s bank account. Con artists will often employ an accomplice posing as a lawyer, banker or other seemingly trustworthy third party.
  • The Fake Accident: The con artist asks for a wire transfer or check to pay for a relative’s urgent medical care. This can be particularly convincing if the scammer has done his homework and researched the names of family members via social media. A similar scam involves calling to say a family member has been arrested and needs money for bail.
  • Charity Scams: Where money is solicited for bogus charities. These are especially prevalent after natural disasters. We recommend researching any charities you want to donate to with charitynavigator.org, www.give.org, www.charitywatch.org or with an internet search including the words “scam” or “complaints” along with the charity’s name before you give.
  • IRS Impersonator: In this scenario, someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls to inform you that there is a problem with your tax return or that you owe taxes, and will threaten legal consequences (arrest, lawsuit, revocation of a driver’s license or deportation are the most common) to convince you to make an immediate payment. (An alternate version of this scam will have them claiming you are owed a big refund to lure you into sharing personal information instead of seeking payment.)The IRS will never call you if they haven’t first mailed a bill, and they will never demand immediate payment without allowing you to question or appeal what you owe. They will also never ask for a credit card number over the phone or require a specific form of payment like a prepaid debit card.
  • Ransomware Scams: A fraudster posing as a Microsoft or Apple employee calls to alert you that there’s a problem with your software. The bogus technician then asks you to log in to your computer and grant him or her access so that they can fix the problem. Then, the scammer locks access to your computer, “kidnapping” it and all of your data until you pay a ransom.You can never be too careful when it comes to your computer and online activity—these frauds are getting more and more sophisticated and convincing. However, legitimate representatives from Microsoft, Apple and other software providers will not call you to report problems with your computer or devices. Our best advice if you receive such a call is to hang up the phone.

Please, never grant access to your financial and personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust.

If you do, it’s common to feel embarrassed or afraid after being targeted for one of these ploys but doing nothing can only make it worse. To find a local Adult Protective Services contact to assist with law enforcement, a government-sponsored national resource line is available at (800) 677-1116.

To learn more about how you can protect yourself online and elsewhere, please download our Are Your Investments Cybersecure? special report and our Investor Protection Checklist.

Be Safe Out There

At Adviser Investments, we have robust security measures in place to prevent any unauthorized access to our clients’ accounts. We’ve worked closely with our account custodians to set up procedures for the wiring and transferring of money, which greatly limits the potential for fraud.

We also follow up any suspicious communications, confirm any unusual requests and always adhere to the instructions clients have given us for handling their accounts.

Our team knows what to look out for, and on several occasions, we have been able to inform a client that their email account was compromised and prevented fraudulent activity. In serious cases, we can also put temporary holds on accounts as a further layer of protection.

The ramifications of having your investment or bank accounts hacked are frightening (and we’re sorry if we’ve alarmed you by writing about it), but it is important to protect yourself and to make sure that the people you’ve hired to manage your money are doing their utmost as well.

We believe that part of the investing peace of mind we provide our clients comes not only from how we manage and grow their money, but also from how we safeguard their accounts and personal information from anyone who should not have it.

Please feel free to give us a call at (800) 492-6868 if you’d like to learn more about Adviser Investments’ services and safeguards.

About Adviser Investments

Adviser Investments operates as an independent, professional wealth management firm with expertise in Fidelity and Vanguard funds, actively managed mutual funds, ETFs, fixed-income investing, tactical strategies and financial planning. Our investment professionals focus on helping individual investors, trusts, foundations and institutions meet their investment goals. Our minimum account size is $350,000. For the sixth consecutive year, Adviser Investments was named to Barron’s list of the top 100 independent financial advisers nationwide and its list of the top advisory firms in Massachusetts in 2018. We have also been recognized on the Financial Times 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

For more information, please visit www.adviserinvestments.com or call 800-492-6868.

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