New scam targets senior citizens

As reported by the media and government in recent months, criminals are targeting senior citizens with a new Social Security scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that, in a new scam, criminals are spoofing the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) phone number so that the victim’s caller ID displays that agency’s actual phone number: 1-800-772-1213. The scammers then claim that the victims have committed a criminal act and that the government has suspended their Social Security number and filed a lawsuit against them. Victims are instructed to call a specific number, and then told to reveal personal information and pay a fine in order to end the lawsuit and recover their Social Security numbers.

In a variation on that scam, victims are told their Social Security number has been suspended due to “suspicious activity” and asked to “press 1” to be connected with a Social Security representative. Instead, however, they are connected to a scammer, who may ask them to verify their Social Security number.

As in most scams, the goal is to obtain personal information and money—usually in the form of wire transfers, credit cards or gift cards—from the victim.

The FTC advises consumers to beware:

  • The SSA will never contact you unexpectedly, ask you for your Social Security number, or tell you to put money on a gift card or wire money.
  • If your caller ID shows a number that looks like it belongs to the SSA, don’t trust it, as it may be spoofed. If you’re concerned, call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213.

Learn about recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs—see the FTC’s list of most recent alerts.