September 4, 2020
by: Staff Report
POLK COUNTY, Fla. – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is seeing an increase in Social Security scams in Polk County. Scammers will use a phone call, email, or even a letter mailed through the US Postal System in an effort to obtain personal information from the victim.
“We want to remind residents to treat any communications – telephone calls, emails, or letters – where someone threatens you or demands money as suspicious, and to immediately report it to the appropriate agency. If you have elderly relatives, ensure they are aware of scams like these. NEVER send money to someone or give personal information to someone you do not know.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has created a page specific to scam awareness and are requesting that victims report the incident on the site so they can investigate it. The website is https://oig.ssa.gov/scam.
Characteristics of these scams can include:
• Scammers use fake names and SSA badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
• Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
• Scammers “spoof” or imitate the SSA toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the SSA calling.
• Scammers sometimes send bogus SSA emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
• Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
Scammers may even demand payment via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The SSA doesn’t ask for either of these payment methods, nor will they ask for credit card numbers; rig caller ID information to appear as if the SSA really is calling; send fake emails or US Postal mail that looks like legitimate SSA correspondence; make a second call claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, rigging the caller ID information.
After threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
In another variation, one scam is targeting “Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance” benefits where the victim receives a letter in the mail stating the SSA is deducting monies from the victim’s monthly payment for outstanding medical premiums. When the victim calls the number on the letter to contest the fake deduction, the scammer then asks for the victim’s personal information.
Here’s how to protect yourself: do not give out your personal information. If it really is the SSA, they will already have your information on file. Call your local SSA office directly to confirm any changes to your benefits.
Social Security and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) take these scams very seriously. They do everything they can to stop the perpetrators and educate the public. To report suspicious activity, please call the OIG Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the OIG TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.) A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available online at OIG’s website here https://secure.ssa.gov/pfrf/home.
You can find more information on how to protect yourself from scams and other fraud on the PCSO website here https://www.polksheriff.org/news-investigations/scam-reporting.