Have you ever thought the government could suspend your Social Security Number (SSN) for whatever reason? If so, you'd better face the truth right now because there is no such thing as a suspended SSN and anyone calling you by phone to tell you otherwise is likely to have ulterior motives.
Recently, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has spared no effort to raise awareness about a government imposter scam that has been gathering momentum at least since 2017. The scheme starts with a phone call in which a scammer, who pretends to be a government official, informs the targeted citizen that their SSN has been suspended because of detected fraudulent activity. They are then advised to either call back or dial a different number to get assistance from another agent. The latter in turn asks for personal information that is supposedly necessary to restore the 'suspended' SSN. Alternatively, they may also ask for a certain amount of money to fix the problem. Either way, the scammers behind the phone exploit the personal data they have gathered for one reason only – to gain unauthorized access to your funds and snag as much as they can.
This type of scam is growing fast if the underlying FDC statistics are anything to go by. As many as 3,200 people lost a total of $210 thousand in 2017. Those figures exploded in 2018 in which the number of victims shot up to 35 thousand who reported an aggregate loss of $10 million. The trend is showing no signs of slowing down in 2019, either. What exacerbates the problem even further is the fact that the caller sounds as professional as you could imagine and the ID shows 1-800-772-1213, the real number of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The voice of that collar sounds a bit robotic, though. You can hear what the scammers say at a dedicated FDC web page.
Here is the text of the call in question:
'… law enforcement agencies to suspend your Social Security number on an immediate basis, as we have received suspicious trails of information in your name. The moment you receive this message, I need you to get back to me on my department division toll-free number that is 1-888-952-5554. I repeat 1-888-952-5554. Verify the last four digits of your Social Security number when you call to better assist you with this issue. Now, if I don't hear a call from you, we will have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested. So, get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you.'
Should you ever get a phone call like the one above, be sure to hang up at once. The warning is 100% fake because:
- There is only ONE real SSA phone number – 1-800-772-1213.
- Neither the SSA nor any other government institution has the legal right to make threats and demand money transfers from you.
- No one has the authority to suspend an SSN under any circumstances.
Nevertheless, if you do get a call about a suspended SSN and the caller ID reveals SSA's actual phone line, hang up, wait a while, then make a new call to 1-800-772-1213 by typing the digits one by one as this will connect you to a legitimate SSA official.