Social Security Scam Calls: How to Identify Them and Protect Yourself

Never give up your Social Security number phone scammers

Social Security scams are some of the most-common phone call scams and have affected thousands of Americans over the years. In these scams, the scammer usually impersonates a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee and attempts to get their target to share their Social Security number.

What Is the Social Security Scam?

These Social Security fraud calls are all about getting your Social Security number. The scammers will pretend to be an official employee of the SSA and will typically fabricate a story about your Social Security number being suspended for ambiguous suspicious activity. The person behind the Social Security scam phone call will then explain that they can reactivate your number, or get you a completely new one, after checking some personal information and reconfirming all or part of your existing Social Security number.

The Social Security Administration does not suspend Social Security numbers so anyone who is claiming this is a scammer.

The scammer may threaten you with criminal charges, which don't really exist, or high fees to pressure you into complying and they may also request payment for the Social Security number reactivation or renewal.

Businessman with glasses holding a bag, a baby, and an iPhone.
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How Does the Social Security Scam Work?

Social Security scammers can target their victims with a series of personalized calls or robocalls. The robocalls are used to reach a large number of people at once with very minimal effort and usually involve leaving a pre-generated voice message instructing the target to call a phone number as there is an important problem with their Social Security number. Both types of calls can come from seemingly random phone numbers but scammers have also been known to use spoofing techniques to mask their caller ID and have it appear as if it’s coming from an official SSA office.

Once connected, the scammer will try and convince the victim that they’re in danger of losing their Social Security number and its associated benefits and may even threaten them with arrest or high penalty fees for apparent suspicious behavior. They can ask for a variety of personal information, and even the Social Security number itself, to confirm the target’s identity but, in reality, the scammer will just use this information to steal their Social Security number for themselves.

Don’t share any of your Social Security number with strangers over the phone or online. Even a few digits can be used to work out your full number.

The scammer can sometimes try to convince their victim that they need to pay a fee to reactivate their number or generate a new one. Payment is often requested in the form of an online bank transfer, cryptocurrency, or gift cards.

How Do the Social Security Scammers Find Victims?

Phone scammers often find their victims’ phone numbers from public online databases and through company data breaches. They can also use bots to crawl the internet and pull phone numbers and names from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

The most-effective way of avoiding this scam is to simply ignore every Social Security number suspended phone call you get. Just hang up and refuse to engage. If you’re concerned about a real problem with your Social Security number, you can call the SSA on 1-800-772-1213 to check.

Because scammers can spoof the 1-800-772-1213 phone number, if you get a call from this number, hang up and manually dial the number to speak to a SSA employee to confirm any potential issue. Don’t use your phone’s automatic redial feature as this could result in you just calling the potential scammer back.

Does Social Security call you? Sometimes. But they will never threaten you, ask for payment, or get you to reveal your Social Security number.

I’m Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you’ve been tricked by a phone scam and have had you Social Security number stolen, you’ll need to file a report at IdentityTheft.gov immediately. This is an official government website that provides detailed instructions for how to recover from scams such as this. You can also file a report with the FTC and by calling the Social Security fraud hotline on 1-800-269-0271.

You can file a report with numerous agencies depending on what kind of internet scam or phone scam you've fallen victim to.

If you’ve given the scammer financial information, you’ll need to call your bank and credit card provider and inform them of what has happened. They may also be able to reverse any transactions that you made with the phone scammer. If you sent money via a gift card or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple, you won’t be able to get any of it back but you might be able to cancel a PayPal payment if you stop it quickly enough.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted for the Social Security Scam?

The most-effective way to protect yourself against Social Security scam calls is to block robocalls on your phone and block any suspicious numbers that call you. There are official and third-party ways to do both on iOS and Android smartphones. It can also be a good idea to increase your privacy levels on your social media profiles and to be extra careful about opening emails which can contain phishing link and promotions for fake websites that are designed to collect phone numbers and email addresses.