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Federal Trade Commission sees uptick in Social Security scam calls

(WPTA21) — If it seems like you are getting a lot of scam calls from people claiming to be from the Social Security Administration you are not alone.

The Federal Trade Commission says monthly reports of government imposter scams have reached the highest level they have on record.

Of the government imposter scams, Social Security Administration scams topped the list, with more than 64,000 reports from January through May 2019.


In this scam, Social Security Administration imposters claim people’s Social Security number has been linked to “criminal activity.” They ask people to provide some information or money. This call is not the only one people are reporting.

In other government imposter scams, callers pretend to be a member of a government organization. They may even fake the number on the caller ID to show the name or phone number of a real government agency.

The FTC says impersonators tell people to send money or provide their Social Security number to avoid arrest or some other trouble.

They may also offer free benefits, grants or prizes. Anything to get people to hand over their information before they can check it out.

“Your Social Security number has been frozen, but we’ll help you keep your money ‘safe’!”
Phony Social Security Administration
“Call now for your free back brace!”
Health & Human Services/Medicare Con
“There’s a lawsuit agaainst you for unpaid taxes.”
IRS imposter
“You’re eligible for a government grant…for a fee.”
Fake government grant offer
“There is a warrant for your arrest for failing to appear in court!”
Bogus police, sheriff or FBI

The scams are costly. The FTC reports 2019’s median losses to law enforcement imposters are the highest of all imposter scams. People have lost an average of $3,000. 20% of people reporting the scams say they lost money.

Scammers will most likely ask for payment using a gift card. Most people who lost money tell the FTC the scammer asked for the PIN on the back of gift cards like Google Play or iTunes cards. Wire transfers are a distant second most likely option.

The FTC says people can protect themselves against imposters by:

  • Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information. Government agencies don’t call with threats, or promises of – or demands for – money. Scammers do.
  • Don’t trust caller ID – it can be faked. Even if it might look like a real call, don’t trust it.
  • Never pay with a gift card or wire transfer. If someone says to pay this way, it’s a scam.
  • Check with the real agency. Look up their number. Call them to find out if they’re trying to reach you – and why.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC at An interactive graphic is available on the FTC website for people to view more information about imposter scams.

Jacob Burbrink

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