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Social Security Scammers Want Your Number

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While Social Security scams have been around since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law, it’s becoming more prevalent with several ways a scammer can try and get you.

Some people are getting calls from scammers who claim to be from the Social Security Administration, claiming that your Social Security card has been used in a crime such as fraudulently applying for a credit card. Tammy Ward at the Better Business Bureau in Pensacola says the scam actually started with caller ID.

“In the past, they have put up ‘Social Security Administration’ up there, or a phone number that looks like it in that area,” Ward said. “Now we see that they are taking neighbors’ and personal phone numbers, real phone numbers, and this actually happened to my phone number.”

Ward’s number had been used by someone, to threaten their target about his Social Security number. She says he was, to put it mildly, fit to be tied.

“He called me back and berated me and whatnot, and I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t me,” said Ward. “And he just hung up on me after telling me he was going to call his lawyer and the sheriff’s department. He said, ‘Don’t stop my Social Security number.’ So the bottom line is if you don’t give them money, they claim they will cut off your Social Security number, which they cannot do.”

Ward reminds everyone that if SSA wants to contact you, they will do so through the U.S. Postal Service.

“They’ll never pick up the phone and call you, and ask you for money over the phone,” said Ward. “They will always do a certified and/or something [else] in the mail.”

As with any attempted scam that seeks personal information, the start of self-protection, says Ward, is protecting your Social Security number.

“If you get a phone call, a text message, an email — anything whatsoever — don’t give them address or anything else, she said. “Definitely not your bank account, definitely not your Social Security number. But you also want to not trust caller ID.”

There are caller ID programs used by the bad guys that can make the number displayed on your phone anything they want to – including real-life numbers such as Ward’s. If you do have to provide the number online, she says to look for the signs of a secure website beforehand.

“The HTTPS and the padlock [icon]; but also don’t go to one of those screens from a Social media site or by clicking on something, Ward said. “You’ll want to actually put the address in yourself to that URL, so you know exactly where you’re going to.”

And whatever the circumstances: do not call the number back. Your caller ID could be telling the scammer it’s a working number OR, as in the BBB’s Tammy Ward’s case, you could be calling an innocent person, who has nothing to do with the call you received.

More information is available at bbb.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.