The Social Security Administration (SSA) officially reopened its offices yesterday after two years of limited access. Those without appointments are allowed to show up at the offices but are still encouraged to try to solve their problems online or over the phone. The SSA has warned that normalcy will not come overnight, but the reopening is still a significant step.
In the meantime, the AARP is warning of some common scams associated with Social Security that recipients should avoid. The organization stated that it received nearly 312,000 reports of Social Security impostors, with $95 million taken in the last five years. The losses included $23.2 million in 2021, $22.3 million in 2020, and $38.4 million in 2019.
One scam involved letters going out to recipients telling them that they need to take some action in order to qualify for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In reality, COLA increases arrive with the change of a year and do not require action for the benefits to kick in.
“A large-scale, multifaceted effort by the government to spread the word about these scammers — and stop them — includes the watchdog office’s warnings about the nine tell-tale signs of a Social Security scam. If an impostor reaches out in a call, text, email, letter, or social media post, you can be sure it’s a scam,” the AARP said.
The organization cited nine telltale signs that a Social Security communication is a scam. These include threats to suspend the recipient’s Social Security number, threats of arrest, demands for immediate payment, demands for gift cards or prepaid debit cards, pressure to disclose personal information, a request for secrecy, threats of seizing the recipient’s bank account, promises to increase the person’s Social Security benefit, and attempts to gain trust by providing fake documentation.
Those contacted by scammers are advised to report the attempts to the SSA.
Back in March, the SSA held “Slam the Scam” Day, in order to draw awareness to frequent Social Security-related scams.
“There are common elements to many of these scams,” the SSA said at the time. “Scammers often exploit fears, threatening you with arrest or legal action. Scammers also pose as Social Security or other government employees and claim there’s a problem with your Social Security number (SSN) or your benefits. They may even claim your SSN is linked to a crime.”
They advised recipients to hang up right away on phone calls and ignore emailed or texted messages, while never giving the scammers any information or money, while also reporting the scam to the OIS.
SSA also published a “Scam Alert” fact sheet.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.