Last week the Senate Aging Committee released its annual report in which it indicated that fraudulent phone calls where scammers pose as Social Security Administration employees asking for personal information were the number one phone scam last year.  Phony calls purporting to be from the IRS were the top scam phone calls for the previous five years. Scammers call on the phone under a variety of pretexts and ask for the Social Security numbers of the people they call.  In the hands of an identity thief, it is very simple matter for a criminal to take a person’s Social Security number and use it to make the person a victim of identity theft.  Some of the excuses given by the scammers calling are that criminal activity has been linked to the particular number and they need to confirm that you are not a criminal or that there has been a computer problem at the Social Security Administration and they need to confirm your Social Security number.  Making the problem worse is that through a technique called “spoofing” scammers are able to manipulate your Caller ID so that the call you receive appears to come from the Social Security Administration.

TIPS

An easy way to avoid becoming a victim of this scam is to remember that the Social Security Administration will never initiate any contact with you by telephone call, email or text message.  Any communication you receive in this manner that is not in response to your own telephone call or email is a scam.  On a larger scale, it is important to remember that you can never be sure whenever you get an email, text message or phone call as to who is really contacting you so you should never provide personal information to anyone in response to an email, text message or phone call unless you have independently confirmed that the communication was legitimate and that information from you is absolutely required.

Many of these fraudulent calls come as robocalls.  It is important to remember that the Social Security Administration will never contact you through a robocall.  Seniors are particularly vulnerable to robocalls and should install anti-robocall programs on their phones.  Here are some ways to stop robocalls:

Verizon has implemented new services to help its customers avoid illegal robocalls.  The new Call Filter service offers spam alerts and new protections from robocalls for its wireless customers.  Customers will receive alerts when a call is most likely a scam.  The new Call Filter service will also automatically block robocalls based of the customer’s preferred risk level.  The Call Filter service is offered in a free version and an enhanced version that among other things will enable customers to create a personal robocall block list.  For more information about the Call Filter Services and how to sign up go to https://www.verizonwireless.com/solutions-and-services/call-filter/

There are a number of other options for preventing robocalls including a number of apps that for free or a small fee will  reduce and in some instances prevent robocalls.
Samsung’s SmartCall informs you if the call you are receiving is from a known robocaller. This feature is available with newer Samsung Galaxy phones. Here is a link to information about SmartCall and instructions as to how to activate this app.
http://www.samsung.com/levant/apps/smart-call/

Google also has a spam blocker that will warn you when you are receiving a robocall and your screen will turn red. Here is a link to information about the app and how to install it.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.dialer&hl=en

AT&T also offers free apps to block robocalls on iPhones and Android phones. Here is a link to information about these apps.
https://www.att.com/features/security-apps.html?partner=LinkShare&siteId=TnL5HPStwNw-yrUS1uDw9WGvN._xt67yew&source=ECay0000000CEL00O

Verizon’s CallerName ID is a free service for iPhones and Android phones that will alert you to suspected robocallers. Here is a link to Verizon’s app.
https://www.verizonwireless.com/solutions-and-services/caller-name-id/

T-Mobile offers a free scam blocker of known robocallers for Android phones which you can activate by merely dialing #662#

Sprint offers a paid service to protect your iPhone or Android phone from robocalls. For more information, use this link
http://explore.t-mobile.com/callprotection

For landlines as well as smartphones there are a number of apps such as Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya, RoboKiller and YouMail that offer robocall blocking for free or for small monthly charges. Here is a link to those apps. I have used Nomorobo for years and find it to be tremendously useful

https://www.nomorobo.com/
https://www.truecaller.com/
https://hiya.com/
https://www.robokiller.com/
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.youmail.android.vvm&hl=en_US                                                                                                                                                                        https://www.youmail.com/home/apps

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