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.

How Do Merchant Data Breaches Affect Your Identity?

Every year millions of Americans become victims of fraud due to merchant data breaches. And, with the recent Equifax breach, which affected 145.5 million people, chances are your information has been compromised. 

Although most consumers have probably only heard about a few breaches, more than 1,100 data security breaches have occurred thus far this year exposing more than 171 million data records, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Many credit unions are working hard to implement debit and credit card chip technology, but they do not prevent online merchant transaction fraud. As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve in both sophistication and scale, the need to safeguard your data has never been more critical.

Credit unions work hard to protect their members' data security including blocking and re-issuing cards as needed. When fraud occurs, they work with members to remove the fraudulent charges and help members keep their hard-earned money. When the merchants cause a data breach, they pass along the costs of their poor security to credit unions and banks. Expenses like this are making it harder for credit unions to offer credit cards with low interest rates and free debit cards with checking accounts. With more and more merchant data breaches occurring each year consumer identity fraud will only continue to increase, placing your private information into the hands of criminals.

So, what do you do if your identity is compromised? Here are some tips and resources to help:

  • Verify fraud. If unauthorized account transactions occur, contact your financial institution or company where fraud has occurred to report unknown charges.
  • Update your passwords. Once fraud is confirmed, change account logins and passwords. Passwords should be robust with multiple types of characters (upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols).
  • Take control. To avoid additional compromises place an initial fraud alert by calling one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax: 800-525-6285; Experian: 888-397-3742; TransUnion: 800-680-7289).
  • Report theft. To begin an identity recovery plan report your theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

To learn more about how merchant data breaches are affecting your credit union visit www.stopthedatabreaches.com.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week Aims to Educate Consumers about Scams

Identity theft is a serious crime. When a thief obtains your personal information such as your mother's maiden name, your date of birth, or your account number, they can open fraudulent credit cards, charge existing credit cards, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans – but did you know they can also use your Social Security number to receive a tax refund or a job? It is called Tax Identity Theft and tax season is the most common time for this type of fraudulence to happen.

To educate members about this type of theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that January 25 through January 29 is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week for 2016. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has updated its tax identity theft resources page on the MyCreditUnion.gov consumer website to provide information to help credit union members understand and prevent identity theft, to protect themselves from other frauds and scams, and the steps used to report all fraudulent activity.

The Federal Trade Commission is also hosting a series of educational events online to correspond with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week:

  • January 26 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) – the FTC and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and Tax Aide Program will co-host a webinar for consumers addressing how tax identity theft happens and what people should do if they become a victim.

  • January 27 at 11:00 a.m. (EST) – Twitter Chat with Information for Veterans about Tax IDT hosted by FTC and Department of Veterans Affairs

  • January 28 at 1:00 p.m. (EST) – Assisting Victims of Tax Identity Theft, a webinar hosted by FTC and IRS

  • January 29 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) – FTC and ITRC Twitter Chat #IDTheftChat

For more information on protecting yourself and others against identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft.