Social Security's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received thousands of Social Security scam complaints in the past 12 months. Reported losses from those cases are in the millions. These Social Security scams include fake Social Security Administration (SSA) employees calling people with warnings that their Social Security numbers have been linked to criminal activity and suspended. The scammers ask you to confirm your number so they can reactivate it or claim they can issue you a new one, for a fee. This is no emergency but a ploy to get money and personal data: Social Security does not block or suspend numbers, ever.
This con is often executed via robocall — the recording provides a number for you to call to remedy the problem. In another version, the caller says your bank account is at risk due to the illicit activity and offers to help you keep it safe.
Remember that the SSA will almost never contact you out of the blue. It will only text you if you've opted to receive notifications that way, or to verify your identity when you access your online My Social Security account. If you do owe the agency money — for a benefit overpayment, for example — you'll get an official letter outlining your payment options and appeal rights. With a little vigilance, it's not difficult to spot when a Social Security contact is a sham.
You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for SSA. Except in rare circumstances, you will not get a call from Social Security unless you have already been in contact with the agency.
The caller asks for your Social Security number — again, something an actual SSA employee wouldn’t do.
A call, text or email threatens consequences such as arrest, loss of benefits or suspension of your Social Security number if you do not make an immediate payment by gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer or cryptocurrency.
How to Spot a Social Security Payment Scam
- Do hang up if someone calls you out of the blue and claims to be from SSA.
- Do be skeptical if a caller claims to be from Social Security's Office of the Inspector General. Scammers appropriate official-sounding and often actual government titles to make a ruse seem authentic.
- Do set up a My Social Security account online and check it on a monthly basis for signs of anything unusual, even if you have not yet started collecting benefits.
- Do install a robocall-blocking app on your smartphone, or sign up for a robocall-blocking service from your mobile network provider.
- Don’t call a phone number left on your voice mail by a robocaller. If you want to contact SSA, call the customer-service line at 800-772-1213.
- Don’t assume a call is legitimate because it appears to come from 800-772-1213. Scammers use “spoofing” technology to trick caller ID.
- Don’t give your Social Security number or other personal information to someone who contacts you by email. SSA never requests information that way.
- Don’t click links in purported SSA emails without checking them. Mouse over the link to reveal the actual destination address. The main part of the address should end with “.gov/” — including the forward slash. If there’s anything between .gov and the slash, it’s fake.