The Inspector General of Social Security, is warning the Americans about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed.
The Inspector General reports that Social Security beneficiaries have received letters through the U.S. Mail stating their payments will be suspended or discontinued unless they call a phone number referenced in the letter. Scammers may then mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures.
Even though local SSA offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, Social Security employees continue to work. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID19 pandemic.
Remember Social Security will never:
- threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee;
- promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
- require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card;
- demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem; or
- send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.
If you receive a letter, text, call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. The Social Security Administration encourages you to report Social Security scams using their dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov. For more information, please visit https://oig.ssa.gov/scam. Members of the press may make inquiries to Social Security OIG at email@example.com.
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- Ask students if they or their family members have received calls from government imposter scammers. If so, how did you or your family respond to such calls?
- Ask students to make a list of possible actions that individuals can take to combat Social Security imposters.
- If you believe you have been a victim of Social Security or an IRS impersonator scam, what actions should you take to prevent such calls in the future?
- How do scammers play on emotions like fear or greed to convince people to provide personal information or money in cash, wire transfers, or gift cards?
- Why do fraudsters often demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, such as Bitcoin, or prepaid debit card?