About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article for PJ Media about some fun I had at the expense of phone scammers pretending to be the IRS. Since writing that article, I’ve heard from people who have been conned by IRS phone scammers and lost thousands of dollars. Today, I found out about an even more dangerous con where phone scammers, pretending to be Social Security Administration officials, attempt to get the target to reveal personal information, including the person’s Social Security number.
What I wrote in my article remains true for me today, “Whenever I hear of someone falling victim to phone scams, my blood boils. Most often the victim is elderly or vulnerable in some way and can ill afford to send money to scam artists.”
Most of those that I’ve heard from (or about) who have fallen victim to the IRS phone scam are elderly or living under or very near the poverty level. It’s easy (yet wrong) to scornfully roll our eyes at those who are gullible enough to fall for what, to most of us, is an obvious phone scam. But many of the victims are ill-equipped to navigate phone scams. They target the elderly and the under-educated — and it works. As I explained in my previous article, the scammers throw in “big words and official-sounding acronyms, [speaking] quickly in order to try and confuse you with a lot of information.”
I still occasionally get called by IRS phone scammers and, if I have the time, I’ll mess with them. This morning I received a call from a 1-800 number. Upon answering, I was greeted with a pre-recorded message informing me that the Social Security office was trying to contact me. According to the message, there had been suspicious activity around my Social Security number. Because of that, the message warned, my Social Security number was going to be suspended and my assets confiscated.
I knew it was a scam as soon as the message began playing, but I was curious, so I hit “1” to speak to a “Social Security officer.” With a thick accent, the “officer” answered: “Social Security office, how may I help you?”
Before I could finish explaining that I had just received a phone call about the alleged suspicious activity around my Social security number, the “officer” hung up on me. I don’t know why. I’d like to think that recordings of my voice have been passed around amongst phone scammers, but I’m almost 100 percent positive that’s not it.
Whatever the reason, I was still curious, and so I called the number back. That’s when I discovered the aspect of the Social Security scam that makes it more dangerous than the IRS scam.
I hit “call” on what I thought was the scammer’s phone number. Turns out that 1-800-772-1213 is the actual customer service number for the Social Security Administration. The scammers are spoofing the number. Hoping to get an explanation from someone at the SSA about the scam, I tried to speak to an operator. But the wait time was over an hour, so I hung up.
When I received the phone call, my phone only showed the number. No doubt other phones will flash on the screen that the phone call is from the SSA. I will admit, when I dialed the number and realized it was the actual SSA, I had a brief moment of confusion and doubt. Imagine the extra confusion sown in the minds of those who are already more predisposed to falling for phone scams if their phone’s caller ID seemingly confirms that the call is from the SSA.
The best way to protect people from these types of scams is through exposure. Spread the word about the Social Security Administration phone scam. Make sure that your loved ones and friends know that the SSA is not calling them and that they should never give out personal information over the phone.