Most financial experts agree that making the right decisions regarding an individual’s Social Security benefits can give a sizeable boost to the size of monthly checks during retirement.
But do be aware that there are plenty of scam artists out there lurking—and they are always ready to pounce on an opportunity to get their hands on retirees’ hard-earned cash. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), such cases have been surging ever since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We continue to see scam artists use the pandemic to steal money and information from honest taxpayers in a time of crisis,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig noted in a statement.
AARP also sounded the alarm that fraudsters are trying to “get their paws on your Social Security number, which they can combine with other personal details they’ve obtained about you to open credit accounts, collect unemployment insurance, circumvent your benefits, commit crimes and unleash a whole lot of misery in your name.”
With this in mind, according to the personal finance site GOBankingRates.com, here are three of the most commonly reported scams.
Do take note that more scammers these days are directly calling Social Security recipients pretending to be government employees. They often claim that there is a case of identity theft or a pressing issue with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits. “Fake calls may also sound friendly, however, and may offer to provide services. These can be offers to enroll a family member in the Social Security program or provide a record of contributions and expected future income. These are attempts to extract as much information from you as possible. If there’s a problem, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will typically mail you a letter and will only call you if you requested a call,” the site writes.
Another method that criminals are relying on more recently is the sending out of emails that appear to be from the SSA. The site says that “phishing is an attempt to trick you into giving out your personal information. Scammers can try to steal passwords, account numbers or your Social Security number. With this information, they can gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts.”
Yes, it is true that most scams these days are conducted online, but that doesn’t mean that all traditional mail pieces are safe. Direct mail scams “are typically sent to older people. Letters may offer an extra Social Security check in return for personal information and a filing fee. … The SSA will never ask you for your personal information, nor will it ever request money.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.