The Social Security Administration (SSA) will mark National “Slam the Scam” Day March 9 as part of fraud-prevention efforts, with scammers claiming tens of millions of dollars in benefits each year from unsuspecting victims.
The SSA fielded more than 568,000 reports of fraud in 2021, per a CNBC report, resulting in losses of $63.6 million. One type of fraud – where the scammer impersonates the victim to collect payments – cost beneficiaries more than $95 million from 2017 through 2021, according to an AARP post.
While scammers have widened their nets to cover all facets of online communication as well as traditional phone and mail schemes, beneficiaries can take some basic steps to protect themselves. In most cases, these actions will prevent all types of financial fraud – a key education issue for MOAA, which has provided members with webinars, multiple standalone articles, and a three-part article series on avoiding scams.
Some prevention tips offered by the SSA:
- Need for Speed: Scammers will pressure beneficiaries to act quickly with false deadlines, promises of prizes for quick action, or other traps to make individuals move without thinking things through.
- Payment Puzzlers: Social Security won’t ask beneficiaries to make payments via gift cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or cash via postal mail – methods used by scammers to avoid trackable funds.
- High Threat Level: If the prizes mentioned above don’t work, look for a stick instead of a carrot – Social Security won’t threaten to seize your bank account or arrest you for noncompliance.
- Too Much Information: Scammers may impersonate Social Security or federal law enforcement officials by sending photos of badges or credentials when seeking payment. Such actions are illegal, per SSA, and should be a clear red flag.
- When in Doubt …: Something seem suspicious? Hang up the phone or delete the email. If it’s unclear whether the request is genuine, don’t answer it – go to SSA.gov and find proper contact information to reach out with concerns. The website also allows beneficiaries to report possible scams.
“Slam the Scam” Day comes as part of National Consumer Protection Week (March 5-11). More information on outreach and prevention efforts to mark the week can be accessed at the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
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