Washington Post, March 4, 2019
All our lives we are told to protect our Social Security number. So, naturally, if someone calls to say your number has been compromised, you become concerned.
The call sounds official. You are told your Social Security number will be suspended immediately. Imagine the fear if you’re retired and relying on your monthly Social Security check.
“We have received suspicious trails of information in your name,” the automated message says. “The moment you receive this message, I need you to get back to me on my department division toll-free number. If I don’t hear a call from you, we will have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested.”
Call back and you will be scammed.
The Federal Trade Commission said that for the first time, the type of impostor scam in which crooks pretend to represent a government agency has topped its list of consumer complaints. Such schemes represented about half of the 535,417 impostor scams reported last year, it said.
And the overall losses were huge: Impostor scams bilked nearly $488 million from consumers in 2018.
In one version of a government impostor scam, the caller or recorded message claims the person’s Social Security number has been blocked because it has been linked to a crime involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally, the FTC said. To reactivate the number or get a new one, victims are told they have to pay a fee.
In another version of the scam, people are told that their Social Security number was fraudulently used to apply for credit cards. They are then threatened with a loss of benefits if they don’t pay up.
The scammer’s goal is usually to get people to reveal their Social Security number, pay a sum of cash or both.
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