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Author Topic: FTC Issue PSA on Social Security Number Scams  (Read 120 times)
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« on: March 07, 2019, 03:29:54 PM »

Scammers pretending to be employees of the Social Security Administrations (SSA) have caused last year losses of at least $16.6 million.

Reports of the SSA scam have skyrocketed last year, records from the US Federal Trade Commission showing that there were over 63,000 reports of this particular fraud since January 2018.

This is almost 20 times more than the reports recorded in 2017 when 3,200 people called about the SSA voice phishing (vishing). That year, the money losses were close to $210,000.

Even if the latest official statistics are worrying, the actual numbers are likely higher because not all the victims register a complaint.

See through a scam, yet it works

Fraudsters come up with all sorts of reasons to elicit information from the victims or make them lose money. The purpose of the scam is to get the victim to send money through non-conventional methods or to obtain sufficient information that could be used for identity theft or applying for loans.

There are multiple variations of the SSA phone fraud, but they all have some things in common. Pretending to be an SSA employee, the scammer at the other end of the line explains that the call was prompted by suspicions of crime-related activities or that someone used it to apply for credit cards.

The deceit is further fueled by the fact that swindlers spoof the number of the SSA to make it look like the call is legitimate.

Typically, they say that the Social Security number (SSN) was blocked or suspended and once trust has been gained, they start asking for sensitive details: confirmation of the SSN, bank-related information, personal data that could lead to identity theft.

They may also up the ante by saying that the victim's bank account is about to be seized. But they always have a solution for getting out of the jam: an immediate payment would make all this seem like a bad dream.

To hide the money trail, they make the victim purchase gift cards and say the codes over the phone.

Some things to consider

In a blog post at the end of last year, the FTC published the recording of a scammer telling their story to a potential victim. You can listen to it here.

Many of the details should be a clear indication of the fraud attempt. For instance, SSN cannot be suspended - getting a new one is possible, though, under special circumstances, and it is not an easy process. Also, government agencies do not call to ask for money and you cannot pay with gift card codes.

Since it's clear that this is a way to make good money, it's doubtful that phone fraud will disappear too soon. What you can do about it is not to give away sensitive data about yourself; if the caller asks for confirmation of the SSN or bank details or any other sensitive information, just hang up - you can always call the real office and find out whether the claims were real or not.

Using the Social Security Administration is only one of the themes used by fraudsters when cold-calling victims. IRS is also a prevalent theme for fraudulent phone calls and the service issued a warning about this on Monday, telling taxpayers that they "should be on constant guard for these phishing schemes, which can be tricky and cleverly disguised to look like itís the IRS."

Furthermore, phishing can occur via multiple channels of communication, including text messages, email, websites, and social media accounts.


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