The FTC is warning today that scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick people into thinking that the Social Security Administration (SSA) customer service center is calling. The practice of faking a phone number, otherwise known as caller ID spoofing, isn't new, but there is a new nationwide scam underway designed to fool you into divulging critical personal information.
Here's how the scam works. The scammer calls, the caller ID displays 1-800-772-1213, which is SSA's customer service number. The caller identifies him or herself as an SSA employee and asks for information, like your Social Security number, which the caller claims is missing from your file. Or, the caller claims that the SSA needs additional information so you can receive an increase in your benefit payment.
The SSA clearly states that they DO NOT contact people by phone for customer service purposes. If a call comes in and it looks like the SSA calling, do not answer. If you want to follow up on the call, the way to ensure you are speaking with the SSA is for you to initiate the call by dialing 1-800-772-1213.
Scammers are constantly picking new numbers to spoof, selecting trustworthy agencies and companies so that people would be more likely to share sensitive information. For instance, recently, residents of areas hit by recent hurricanes have been receiving scam calls about flood insurance. And, for years, people have received fake calls purportedly coming from the Microsoft Support Center. But it's not just companies and government agencies you need to wary of. Scammers have also been known to spoof family members' names and numbers to trick people into sending money.
What to do if you think you're being spoofed
If you have any question about whether or not you're being spoofed, do not give out or confirm any personal or financial information, including account numbers, your mother's maiden name, passwords, Social Security numbers (even partial ones) or any other identifying information.
If you receive a call from someone who says they represent a company or government agency that's seeking personal information, hang up and call back using a number on a recent account statement or that's listed on the company or government agency website.
If you're being pressured for information, hang up.
Never wire money or send money using a reloadable card.
And, warns the FTC, if you have a voicemail account with your phone service, make sure you require a passcode even if you're calling from your own line. Hackers can spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you don't set a passcode.
Report calls from scammers to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
Finally, for scammers who don't use number spoofing when they call, turn on call blocking services and use call blocking apps. We provide detailed information on how to block spam calls for iPhones, Android phones and how to block spam calls on your home phone.
[image credit: SSA number spoofing concept via BigStockPhoto]