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.

Fake Check Scams on the Rise

In early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about a spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017. 

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam traps annually is close to 500,000. The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year. 

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with a simple paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  • “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.

  • Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.

  • “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the financial institution. The scam becomes clear a few days later when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?

  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?

  • Every check has an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match.

  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.

  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.

  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. Contact the authorities or your financial institution if you come across any of the following:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.

  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.

  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.

  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Don’t hesitate to contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union at 330-364-8874 if you have questions regarding a suspicious check, a questionable transaction, or general fraud. It is better to be safe than sorry.