Don't Be A Victim of Social Security Fraud

Any of the hundreds of scams around today can make you feel like we live in a world gone mad. How cruel can someone be to con a poor victim out of thousands of dollars?

But one of the most heartless scams making the rounds is the one targeting the elderly who depend on Social Security benefits for basic living needs. Victims may be left with no resources at all when they are tricked out of their benefits or their accounts are emptied. Worse yet, scammers are fully aware that the elderly make for easy victims. Many older Americans are from a bygone era in which anyone on the phone could be trusted. They haven’t grown up in a society that knows to constantly look over their shoulders and to cover their keypads when punching in a PIN. The elderly can be naïve and trusting, and it is this endearing naivety that can make them fall prey to scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a recent surge in Social Security scams which, unfortunately, are often successful.

Here’s how these scams work:
The victim receives a phone call from an alleged Social Security employee telling them their benefits have been suspended and must be reactivated. The caller claims the suspension is due to suspicious account activity or that it happened because of a computer glitch. To lift the suspension, the scammer says, the victim must share their personal information, including full legal name, phone number, Social Security number, and financial account information.

Alternatively, the victim will receive an automated voice message instructing them to call a specific number to correct a problem with their Social Security benefits. Upon calling the given phone number, the victim is asked to provide their personal information.

In yet another version of this Social Security scam, the victim receives an email that looks like it came from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The email will include a link asking the victim to update their personal information, giving a similar backstory as above.

If you receive Social Security benefits, or you know someone else who does, protect yourself and your loved ones by reviewing and educating others about these tips:

  • The Social Security Administration will never call about suspended benefits. There’s no reason to believe a caller who claims your benefits have been suspended. First, Social Security benefits don’t get suspended because of computer glitches. Second, the SSA will not call you to request your personal information out the blue. Government agencies rarely make phone calls to private citizens. When they do, the citizen will always know to expect that call.

  • Never share personal information via unsecured means. Don’t trust just anyone. It’s best not to share personal information over the phone or the internet. If you must, verify that you are interacting with the party you believe you’ve reached. The best way to do so is by contacting the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213. Remember, con artists are experts at looking and sounding like genuine government officials. Don’t fall for their tricks.

  • Report all scam attempts. Help combat these scams by reporting any attempts made to con you out of your personal information. If you receive a phone call or an email from an alleged SSA employee requesting information, don’t respond. Instead, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or call your local Social Security office and ask if there is actually a problem with your benefits. If, as is likely, there is no problem and you’re being scammed, the SSA will be better equipped to stop the scammers from conning more victims. You can also call the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at 1-866-501-2101 or complete a Public Fraud Reporting form at the OIG website at socialsecurity.gov. Finally, report the scam attempt to the FTC at ftc.gov.

  • Tell your friends and family. Fight back by doing your own part to stop those scammers. Tell anyone you know who receives Social Security benefits about these scams and warn them not to share their information on the phone and online.

Let’s keep our money safe and send those scammers packing! Contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union at 330-364-8874 if you have questions regarding possible identity fraud or a scam with your account.

Staying Safe Online

With the average American spending 24 hours a week online, internet safety is more important than ever. A hacked or compromised computer can put you at risk for money loss, phishing scams, or even complete identity theft.

If your computer’s security has been breached, then it can be turned into a “middle man” for online theft. Criminals may remotely control a computer with weak security and use it as a patsy for large-scale crimes against hundreds or thousands of other computer users. An unprotected computer can commit awful crimes without its owner even knowing about it!

Fortunately, keeping your privacy, money, and sensitive information safe when browsing the internet is simple; all it takes is awareness, some proactive steps, and lots of common sense. Read on for steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

AVOID FAKE SITES
The easiest way to get scammed online is to visit a fraudulent site. If you are browsing a site you do not usually use, then ask yourself these questions to make sure it is safe:

  • Does your browser warn you against visiting the site? Whether you browse with Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, your browser will warn you about certain sites based on actual data and user reports.

  • Is the web text riddled with grammar mistakes and typos? Reputable website owners are careful to present a polished, professional look. If a site looks like it was written by a small child, then leave the site.

  • Is the site secure? Only visit sites with an “https” and not just an “http” in the address bar.

  • Does the digital footprint check out? Google the company’s name to see what the internet and Better Business Bureau are saying about them.

  • Is there a legitimate “Contact us” section? There should be an authentic physical address and phone number for the business.

  • Is there an excessive amount of ads? Ads are intrinsic to the online world, but if a website seems to be covered in intrusive ads then it is likely a fake.

  • Check the shipping and return policies. If you cannot find this information, the site probably doesn’t really sell anything at all – though they are happy to take your money.

  • Is there a trust seal? Companies that deal with sensitive information make an investment to earn your trust. A trust seal, like the PayPal or Norton Secured seal, tells you the company has worked hard to deserve your trust.

  • Is the URL authentic? When redirected to another site, check the new URL to see if it matches the original company.

PRACTICE PASSWORD SAFETY
It is your key to almost every online board and gated site – do your best to keep it safe! Here is how:

  • Use a password generator. The best way to ensure that your passwords do not get hacked is to use a password generator like Sticky Password, LastPass, or 1Password. These services generate a super-secure password for every site you visit – but you will only need to remember your one master password.

  • Change your password. If you do not like the idea of using a password generator, experts recommend changing your passwords every 30-40 days.

  • Never double passwords. Using common passwords across multiple sites is easy on the memory, but hard on your safety and security.

  • Use strong passwords. For optimal security, choose passwords that include a mixture of capitalization use, numbers, letters, and symbols.

UPDATE YOUR BROWSER
Perhaps the most neglected and simplest step of internet safety is keeping your browser updated. You can increase your browser’s security and improve your computer at the same time with just one click.

Here is why you will want to keep your browser running with its newest version:

  • Increased speed. Each new version of your browser is an improvement on the old one. Why lag behind when you could be using a faster browser?

  • Improved website compatibility. Lots of websites rely on updated browsers to share all of their graphics and features.

  • A better experience. A newer browser will offer you added features, customizable extensions and sleeker graphics.

An updated browser will provide better security. Internet companies are constantly looking for ways to protect you and keep you safer. Take full advantage of their efforts by always using the latest version. Updated browsers offer stronger protection against the most recent scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, malware, and more. Newer browsers have also patched up security vulnerabilities that may be present in your older browser.

Updating your browser is super-easy and super-quick. Late model computers will update automatically as soon as new iterations are released to the public. If your computer is a little older, then you can choose the “auto-update” feature available on some browsers for the same results. Otherwise, you can update your browser manually by following the instructions on your browser. These are typically easy to follow and take just a few clicks.

Follow these tips for safe online browsing. A few small steps now can save you heaps of aggravation and money lost down the line. Do not let those hackers get to you!