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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

5 Social Security scams (and how to avoid them)

Social Security is a critical safety net for retirees in the United States. After all, the financial support provided by the Social Security program offers many seniors the stability necessary during their golden years — and in some cases, these payments may be their primary source of income during retirement.

But even if your Social Security benefits aren’t your only source of funding during retirement, this money can still be a vital addition to your financial plan. Unfortunately, scammers are constantly devising new ways to exploit this system for their gain, putting your hard-earned retirement savings at risk.

That’s why the Social Security Administration (SSA) regularly issues warnings about the scams that are circulating — so you know what to watch out for. So what are some of the more common Social Security scam tactics, and how can you avoid them? Below, we’ll break down what you should know.

Learn how to protect your identity, and your Social Security benefits, here.

5 Social Security scams (and how to avoid them)

There area wide range of Social Security scamsto watch out for. Some of the more common scams include:

The impersonation scam

One of the most prevalent Social Security scams involves impostors posing as SSA officials. Scammers may reach out via phone, email or even in person, claiming there is a problem with your Social Security benefits. They often use fear tactics to pressure you into providing sensitive personal information, like your Social Security number or bank account details.

How to avoid it:

Never share personal information over the phone or email unless you initiate the contact.Hang up on suspicious calls from individuals claiming to be SSA representatives.Verify the legitimacy of any communication with the SSA by calling the official SSA phone number or visiting the official website.

Find out how you can better protect your finances here.

The fake Social Security card scam

Scammers also target individuals seeking replacement Social Security cards. They may offer to expedite the process or claim you need to pay a fee for a new card, which is typically free. The scammers then keep the fake fees you paid to them — and you won’t receive the replacement Social Security card.

How to avoid it:

Request a replacement Social Security card directly from the official SSA website or office.Never pay for a replacement card; it should be free.Be cautious of any online services claiming to provide a card for a fee.

The threat of benefits suspension scam

In this scam, fraudsters claim that your Social Security benefits will be suspended due to criminal activity or a problem with your account. They may demand immediate payment or personal information to resolve the issue.

How to avoid it:

Understand that the SSA will not threaten to suspend your benefits without prior communication.Verify any claims of benefit suspension by contacting the SSA directly.Report any suspicious calls or messages to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the SSA.

The investment opportunity scam

Scammers sometimes present enticing investment opportunities claiming they can boost your Social Security benefits or provide you with additional income. These schemes often require upfront fees or involve fraudulent investments.

How to avoid it:

Be skeptical of any investment offer that promises to increase your Social Security benefits.Research investment opportunities thoroughly, and consult a trusted financial advisor.Avoid investments that require you to share your Social Security number or personal information.

The Social Security overpayment scam

In this scam, fraudsters claim that you have received excess Social Security benefits and must repay them immediately. They may pressure you to make payments via gift cards, wire transfers, or other untraceable methods.

How to avoid it:

Verify any overpayment claims by contacting the SSA directly.Be cautious of anyone demanding unusual payment methods or threatening legal action.Report suspected overpayment scams to the SSA and the FTC.

Other ways to protect yourself from scams

In an age where scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods, it’s important to have a robust line of defense against identity theft and financial fraud. One valuable tool in your arsenal for safeguarding your personal information and financial well-being is a reputable identity theft protection service.

There are numerous options available to you, and one of the top options is LifeLock. While the services from these identity protection services vary, they all aim to help you protect yourself from common Social Security scams and other identity-related threats. Here’s what these services commonly offer:

Real-time monitoring: Many of these services, including LifeLock, offer 24/7 monitoring of your personal information, including your Social Security number. If any unauthorized use of your information is detected, you’re alerted.Identity theft insurance: This insurance can help cover the costs associated with recovering your identity and resolving any financial losses incurred due to the theft.SSN and credit alerts: Given the prevalence of Social Security scams, these services will typically keep a close watch on your Social Security number and alert you if your SSN is used to apply for credit or other services.Other protections: You may get other protections, like Dark Web monitoring, lost wallet protection or even stolen funds reimbursement. LifeLock offers all three, but again, the protections will vary based on the service you choose and the plan you opt for.

But while these types of services can be valuable tools for protecting your identity and finances, it’s essential to remember that no service can guarantee complete immunity from fraud or identity theft. Do your research and find the right service for you. Get started with LifeLock here now!

The bottom line

Protecting your Social Security benefits and personal information is crucial to securing your retirement. By staying informed about common Social Security scams and following these tips, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to fraudsters. Remember, the Social Security Administration will never ask for sensitive information or demand immediate payment over the phone or email. So, stay vigilant and make sure you know what to look for so you’re protected from these common scams.

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