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How to Recognize Social Security Scam Emails and Letters

written by: Aaron R.•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 2/10/2010

Social security scams deprive recipients of much needed money and peace of mind. These phishing and identity theft scams are vicious. Do you know how to recognize them?

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    Types of Social Security Scams

    Social security scams are simply that – scams. Asking for personal information in an official-looking letter or email despite the “logical" reason is still a scam. Phishing scams are now common but their effects of identity theft and fraud can be devastating. Different social security scams ask for your personal information (name, address, phone number, social security number, financial or banking information) because they want you to believe the Social Security Administration supposedly needs this information to provide a service you did or didn’t request.

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    Common Elements of a Social Security Scam

    Logical reasons cited in the fraudulent letter or email can include that you are qualified for much more compensation in your monthly check, a child needs to register for a social security number, you need a copy of your Earnings and Benefits Statement or medical card, or every citizen is required to order a new social security card by a certain date. The imposter may tell you there is a power outage and he or she has to verify social security numbers or direct deposit account information. The Social Security Administration doesn’t need to independently verify your personal information for their free services. They already have your information. They also don’t assume you randomly want a service.

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    Don't Give Out Your Information!

    The Social Security Administration along with legitimate businesses and other government agencies never ask for your social security number through a letter, email or phone call that you didn’t initiate. Even if the caller, letter or email says that your benefits will stop because you inherited a house or sizeable monies, don’t give them your personal information. Stop this phishing scam before you are the next victim. Once you do provide your information, they’ll probably tell you that you must give them so much money up-front to take care of taxes, closing costs or processing fees. Once they ask for money, alarms should sound in your head. To determine whether what the caller is saying is true or not, you can tell the caller you will call them right back. Get their phone number but don’t use it. Call your local SS office, verify that they know nothing about your benefits being stopped, tell them about the conversation, and give them the phone number you were just given by the fake caller.

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    Does the Email Request Money?

    A typical indicator of any scam is requesting money upfront before the service or product is given. The Social Security Administration doesn’t charge for their services. The Social Security Administration won’t ask for a processing fee or filing fee even if the imposter told you this is the only way to receive your extra check each month that you will not get because the SSA doesn’t know about it. The SSA mails letters about benefits increase and other changes. They don’t ask for personal information in these letters. They provide you with your information. They also don’t send more than one monthly check to one person. Any official-looking letter or email requesting money for free services is a scam even when they don’t ask you for personally identifiable information. The personal check you shouldn’t send provides the scammer with your name, address and banking information. Also, you can verify that the return address contained in the questionable fraudulent letter or email doesn’t belong to the SSA by calling your local SSA office.

    So, the basic rule to avoid online fraud still is “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is". You can file a complaint with the Social Security Administration if you think you’ve been the victim of a social security scam.