Voice of the consumer: Social Security scam reports skyrocketing

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (The Gazette) - 11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

A scam I’ve warned you about before is now even more popular than the IRS scam call we’ve all received. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says reports of the Social Security scam have been skyrocketing while reports of the IRS scam are declining.

The caller claims to work with the Social Security Administration and says your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because you were involved in a crime. The crooks ask you to confirm your Social Security number and they may ask you for money.

I got the call recently with a robotic-sounding voice. The voicemail said, “Social Security number for criminal activities. So when you get this message, kindly revert as soon as possible, before we begin with the legal proceedings. Thank you and have a nice day.”

The FTC says people filed more than 76,000 reports about Social Security scam calls over the last year and lost more than $19 million. That’s more money than what victims lost to the IRS scam when it was at its peak, which was $17 million.

In the last two months alone, consumers have lost $6.7 million to the Social Security scam. It’s not the first time I’ve warned you about this scam, but that number shows the calls are really picking up right now.

The number one way people are paying the scammers is by using gift cards. Please share this information with everyone you know. If someone asks you to pay for something using gift cards, it’s a scam! Crooks ask people to read the gift card numbers over the phone and they wipe the money off the cards right away. The FTC says scammers like gift cards because they can stay anonymous and get the money quickly.

The real SSA will never call to threaten to take away your benefits or ask you to wire money or use gift cards. It goes without saying, but do not give out your Social Security number or any other personal information.

A lot of times the scammer spoofs their phone number to make it look like the call is coming from the Social Security Administration. Like I’ve told you before, you can’t trust your Caller ID. Con artists can mask their phone number to make it look like they are calling from anywhere, like the utility company or the police department. If you are worried, you can reach out to the legitimate SSA by calling 1-800-772-1213.

One last reminder, tax day is Monday. While IRS calls may not be as popular, they are definitely still making the rounds, especially right now during tax season.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.