Social Security Scam: Your Number Won't be Suspended
(February 26, 2019)
Over the last week, we have heard from a couple of residents who received scam phone calls from people claiming to be with the Social Security Administration (SSA). One neighbor answered the phone to hear a woman’s recorded voice stating that his social security number had been cancelled and he would not receive further benefits unless he talked to an agent. Fortunately, he hung up.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently warned that SSA scams are increasing. They received over 10 times as many complaints in 2018 as the prior year with 35,000 complainants and $10 million lost. Scammers impersonating SSA representatives may claim that your Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious or criminal activity associated with your number. They may threaten to issue an arrest warrant if you do not immediately respond.
These scammers may ask you to reactivate your Social Security number, a ploy likely used for identify theft. In some cases, they state your bank account is about to be seized and require you to purchase prepaid credit or gift cards or make a payment by wire transfer.
According to the FTC:
- “Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. You don’t have to verify your number to anyone who calls out of the blue. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.
- SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
- The real SSA number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are putting that number in the caller ID. If you’re worried about what the caller says, hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real SSA. Even if the wait time is long, confirm with the real SSA before responding to one of these calls.
- Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Or your bank account or credit card number.”
Please let people know about this scam. To hear a snippet of one of these calls as well as to learn more information about them, please visit the FTC’s webpage.
Emergency Scam: Bail money for Son-In-Law
(January 17, 2019)
A scammer called a resident this week claiming to be his son-in-law and asking for money to bail him out of a jail in Seattle. When the resident questioned why the caller’s voice sounded unfamiliar, the scammer said he had been in a crash and spent the night in jail without medical attention for a busted nose. The caller asked the resident to keep the conversation confidential because it would upset his wife.
The victim reported also speaking to a “representative of legal aid" who was attempting to secure $3,000 for bail. Phone numbers for both callers showed a Washington area code on caller ID. The scammers wanted the resident to provide his cell phone number so they could send him a bar code to use to deposit funds into their account at an ATM.
Fortunately, the resident called his daughter to verify the son-in-law’s whereabouts before proceeding with the money transfer and discovered the calls were associated with a scam.
Emergency scams can take various forms whether they involve a jail, a hospital or mugging where a “relative” needs cash to return home. Some tips for avoiding emergency scams:
- Know the signs of a scam. For example, scammers effectively use pressure tactics to compel individuals to act before they have time to analyze info and do their research. They may ask you to wire funds or use prepaid cards to pay. Other signs: https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/six_signs.pdf
- Ask questions. If someone claims to be a relative, verify their identity by asking only questions known to that person.
- Check it out. Contact family members to confirm the person’s location.
- Do your research. For example, if the caller claims to be in a jail in this country, check the respective law enforcement agency’s jail booking website or call the agency directly.
- Be wary of caller ID. Don’t rely on caller ID to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller ID so that a fake number or organization appears on the recipient’s phone.
- Be skeptical of messages. Emergency scams can be transacted through hacked email and social media, so don’t assume that messages received from familiar accounts are necessarily legitimate.
- Maintain privacy. Emergency scammers may be able to glean information from social media accounts, so regularly update your privacy settings and restrict access. Additionally they often will use the information provided by the victim during a communication such as names and repeat it during the conversation to establish familiarity.
(November 20, 2018)
This week, a scammer claiming to be a PGE customer service rep called an auto repair shop and threatened to cut off their electricity if they didn’t pay a past due bill within 45 minutes.
The owner knew the account was up-to-date. He called the phone number provided on the voice message to dispute the claim that his account was 60 days overdue. The call taker, “Kathy”, stated that she could transfer him to the financial division to discuss the status of his bill, but the electricity would be cut off in 45 minutes unless payment was rendered. When she instructed him to pay by a Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid card and call back with the number, he realized it was a scam. He hung up and called PGE directly using the phone number printed on his utility bill.
This scheme has been around for a several years and targets residents and businesses alike. These scammers are effective at using pressure tactics to get people to act before they have time to do their research. A concerning development in this case is the similarity between the phone menu used in this scam and PGE’s menu.
Some tips for avoiding this scam:
- Be suspicious of callers who pressure you to act now and demand immediate payment for any reason.
- If you receive an unsolicited call, email or text stating you owe money, contact the company directly using information from your account statements, info from the company’s website or another reputable source.
- “Beware of money scams. PGE would never demand payment by a prepaid credit card to prevent disconnection of service,” warns PGE on its phone line. (Prepaid cards may include Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, prepaid Visa and Mastercards or gift cards such as ITunes).
- Don’t pay by wire transfer either. Scammers want you to pay using a method that can’t be easily stopped or recovered.
- Never give personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call, email or text.
- Don’t rely on caller id to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller id so that a fake umber or organization appears on your phone.
- Inform loved ones and friends about these kinds of scams.