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Submitted by the Better Business Bureau
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for recipients of Social Security benefits and Supplementary Security Income (SSI). Due to inflation, payments can increase by 8.7% this year. It’s a significant increase – the highest COLA approved in more than 40 years – and scammers are taking advantage. If you or a loved one receive Social Security benefits, stay alert to the signs of a scam.
“Any scam that targets older adults is particularly heinous, because they prey on the vulnerable,” said Matt Krueger, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York. “The best defense against them is to know what to expect and how to react if you become a target.”
How the Scam Works
Scammers contact you by phone, text or email. This “Social Security Administration representative” claims you must apply for your cost-of-living increase. They might ask you to visit a website, send information via text or email, or speak with them on the phone to get the benefit. The scammer will ask you to verify your identity by sharing personal details, such as your full name, address, or Social Security number. They may even ask for your bank account information, claiming that the representative will deposit the extra money directly into your account.
In any case, if you give your information to the person in question, they will have gained access to your most sensitive personal information, making you susceptible to identity theft. If you give up your banking information, they may even be able to gain access to your money.
How to Avoid Social Security Scams
√ Remember, the SSA’s COLA is automatic. You don’t need to do anything to receive the increase in benefits. If someone tells you otherwise, you’re likely dealing with a scammer.
√ Know how the SSA communicates. According to SSA, “If there is a problem with your Social Security number, we will mail you a letter. Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us.” A call, text or email from an SSA agent out of the blue is a red flag.
√ Don’t give in to threats. SSA will never threaten you with arrest or legal action. They will never suspend your Social Security number or demand payment from you. They will never ask for personal information or banking details to give you an increase in benefits. If someone demands these things or threatens you over the phone, they are not with SSA.
√ When in doubt, hang up. If you suspect you might be getting scammed, stop all communications. Visit www.SSA.gov to research, or call 1-800-772-1213 to confirm that the correspondence is legitimate before taking action.
Get more general tips to avoid scams by visiting www.BBB.org/AvoidScams.
If you spot a Social Security scam, report it to www.BBB.org/ScamTracker