Fraud Fighters: COVID-19 helping scammers target more seniors for social security fraud

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Joining us this morning is Jamie Harding with AARP Alabama. Since the pandemic started, senior citizens have been spending more time at home than ever helping scammers spread social security fraud to more seniors. It’s an issue AARP Alabama is keeping an eye on.

Guest: We have more than one-million social security recipients in Alabama this is really important for people to know about and protect themselves. So first of all we’re seeing or hearing about a lot of phone calls claiming to be from social security and also threatening phone calls in a sense, they’re claiming that there’s something wrong with their account. Claiming that they need to send some money or they’ll be arrested. It’s some kind of very scary scenario where they’re trying to frighten people into taking immediate action. So first of all we want everyone to know that Social Security is never going to call you and threaten you over the phone. That’s never going to happen, if someone calls and claims they’re from Social Security making threats like that hang up, don’t even speak to them. They are not social security they would never threaten you over the phone.

Chad: Let’s go beyond the phone but also emails and texts, what are scammers looking for there and how can you tell whether a communication is a fraud or not?

Guest: Social Security, if you have a problem with you account, if they’re trying to contact you they will send you a letter in the mail, they will never text you, they will never email you and they certainly will never call you, you can call them use the toll free number on their website ssa.gov. They are never going to text or email you, sometimes scammers will find a little bit of personal information about you and use that in a text or email to make it look like they know it’s you and they know something about you but they are not, if they are trying to reach you from SSA they will send you a letter through the mail. That’s the only way they’re going to reach out.

Chad: Another scam you’re seeing is the gift card scam, how does that one work?

Guest: This comes into play with social security scams because this is a popular way for scammers to demand any kind of payment, no matter what kind of scam they’re running. So if they say you have to make a payment to social security–sometimes that does happen where there have been overpayments or something like that, it’s not very common, it does happen occasionally, if that happens, SSA will send you a letter they’ll tell you how to send them a check, they will not ask for gift cards or VISA cards or any kind of wire transfer or anything like that. The reason scammers like those kinds of payment methods is they’re hard to trace

Chad: Another scam is tempting people by claiming they’ll increase benefits if they give up their Social Security number, how does that work?

Guest: That’s an interesting wrinkle too, they claim to be with social security or they are a social security consultant of some sort and they claim if you send them a fee, some kind of a payment up front, they can get you more benefits in your monthly social security checks, that is not possible that is definitely a scam. That is not how social security works and please don’t send money to people who claim they can do that for you.

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