Scam of the day – July 31, 2017 – Social Security phone scam

The phony phone call from a scammer posing as an IRS agent threatening severe penalties if the person receiving the call has proven to be a very successful scam for the criminals making those calls so it is not surprising that scammers are branching out and now are making calls to unwary seniors purporting to be representatives of the Social Security Administration.  There are a number of variations of this scam, but perhaps the most common is where the person receiving the call is told that in order to receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), they must confirm personal information including their name, birth date and Social Security number.   The truth is that this information is not required for a person to receive a cost-of-living adjustment which is automatic and if the person does provide this personal information, the scammer will use it to make the person a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You do not have to confirm information or apply for any cost-of-living adjustment.  It is automatically added to a Social Security recipient’s payment.  In addition, you should never give out personal information on the phone to someone you have not called unless you are absolutely sure that the call is legitimate and there is a legitimate need for that information.  Scammers can trick your Caller ID through a technique called spoofing into making it appear that the call is from the Social Security Administration or any other entity they wish.

Scam of the day – May 25, 2015 – New Social Security scams

A person’s Social Security number is a key to identity theft.  Armed with this information, an identity thief can steal your identity, get credit in your name and even file an income tax return using your Social Security number.  Identity thieves are always devising new ways to lure people into providing their Social Security number.  The Social Security Administration (SSA)Inspector General has issued a warning about new threats, one of which you can control and the other of which you cannot.  According to the Inspector General, the data base of the Social Security Administration suffered a cyberattack that appears to have stolen information from the SSA that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  Having this information fall into the hands of identity thieves is something you cannot control.  However, the Inspector General also indicated that identity thieves are also contacting people by phone, emails or text messages claiming to be representatives of Social Security requesting personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account number or birth date under various guises.  People falling for these scams and providing this information soon end up becoming victims of identity theft.

TIPS

Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  The Social Security Administration will not contact you by email or text messages so if you are communicated with by either of these methods, you can be sure that it is a scam.  They will generally not call you by phone either except in the limited situations of where you have just filed a claim and even then, they will never ask for your Social Security number or other personal information.  As a general rule, you should never provide personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure they are who they say they are.  If you do receive a communication that purports to be from Social Security that you think might be legitimate, you can find out for sure by merely hanging up and calling the Social Security customer service line at 800-772-1213.

Scam of the day – September 12, 2014 – Latest Home Depot developments

The Home Depot hacking, which could well end up to be the largest commercial data breach in history continues to evolve.  The latest developments involve those people who unwisely used their debit cards for making purchases at Home Depot stores.  Although Home Depot attempted to comfort those people who used debit cards at their stores by telling them that no PINs were among the data stolen, banks are already reporting a large increase in fraudulent ATM withdrawals using those compromised debit cards.  So how could this happen?  Unfortunately, armed with the debit card number, the full name of the card holder, the city, state and zip code where the card was used, enterprising identity thieves are able to gain access to the Social Security numbers and birth dates of those customers.  They are then able to call automated systems at the banks issuing the cards and change the PIN.  Most of these systems will allow the caller to be able to change PINs if the caller passes three of five security checks including the customer’s date of birth and the last four digits of the customer’s Social Security number and the card’s expiration date.  These can be obtained by identity thieves and we are now seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars already emptied from the bank accounts of people who used their debit cards to shop at Home Depot.  This same problem occurred following the Target data breach last Fall.

TIPS

First and foremost, DO NOT USE DEBIT CARDS FOR RETAIL PURCHASES.  I can’t say this too often or too loudly.  The risk to your financial well being is just too great, particularly with more and more retailers being hit with the same data breaches that have happened at Target, Home Depot and many other stores.  This will continue to happen as cyber security experts still have not come up with a viable solution to the threat posed by the hackers behind these data breaches.  When making purchases, use your credit card where the risk is only one of inconvenience in having to get a new card if your card is part of a data breach.  Meanwhile banks have got to recognize that their present system of allowing people to change PINs by phone with information easily obtained by identity thieves is not effective and the system must change.

Scam of the day – January 26, 2013 – Social Security scam reminder

On June 3rd I last warned you about a scam that is getting into high gear regarding Social Security checks.  In an attempt to make Social Security more efficient and less costly to manage, the Social Security Administration is in the process of requiring all people receiving benefits to receive their checks through automatic electronic deposits into their bank accounts.  In the alternative, people without a bank account can opt to receive their benefits through payments into a Direct Express Debit MasterCard.  The deadline for those people still receiving paper checks of March 1st is rapidly approaching.  If you know of anyone who is receiving Social Security benefits and has not yet switched to an electronic transfer, urge them to do so by either calling 1-800-333-1795 or by going online to www.GoDirect.org.  In addition, they can also make the change in person at their local Social Security office.  However, anyone receiving a Social Security payment should be very aware of the scammers who will be contacting Social Security recipients by email or by phone claiming to be representatives of the Social Security Administration.  They will then ask for your Social Security number, bank account number and other personal information to purportedly process your claim, however, what they really will be doing is setting the stage to steal your identity.

TIPS

The Social Security Administration will not be contacting anyone by telephone or by email.  If you receive any communication from someone who says that he or she is with Social Security, you can be sure that they are an identity thief.  Never give your personal information to anyone unless you are sure of with whom you are communicating and you can never be sure if you receive a phone call or an email that the person communicating with you is legitimate.  If you have a question about Social Security, either go to their website, call them at a phone number you know is correct or go directly in person to one of the Social Security offices.  If you need to make the change to an automatic electronic payment, you can also use the phone number and website indicated above.  It should also be noted that people born on May 1, 1921 or earlier can receive an automatic waiver from having to receive an electronic payment if they wish.  There are other exceptions for people living in remote areas or for whom the automatic electronic payments would be a hardship.  Waiver applications can be obtained by calling 1-800-333-1795.