Senator Collins Warns of Coronavirus Twist on Social Security Imposter Scams

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, is warning older Americans of ongoing scam attempts involving criminals posing as Social Security Administration (SSA) employees and attempting to scare seniors with threats to suspend their Social Security number or benefits.  The Social Security impersonation scam was the most common fraud reported to the Committee’s Fraud Hotline last year, and the Hotline has recently experienced a slight increase in reports of this pernicious scam. 

 

In a common iteration of the scam, fraudsters claim that the individual’s Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious activity or has been used in a crime.  The scammers claim that the situation can only be resolved by providing sensitive personal information or payment in the form of gift cards, a wire transfer, or cash. 

 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA Office of the Inspector General is warning of a variation of this scam that targets Social Security beneficiaries.  In this version, criminals send letters to Social Security beneficiaries claiming that their monthly payments will be suspended, due to the coronavirus and SSA office closures, unless the victim calls a number provided by the scammers. 

 

The Commissioner of Social Security has stated that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments will not be interrupted due to COVID-19.  In addition, although SSA field offices are closed to in-person appointments during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency continues to provide service by telephone and online.  More information is available on the SSA’s coronavirus webpage:  https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/.

 

“This just goes to show that the ruthless criminals behind these scams will stop at nothing to steal seniors’ personal information and hard-earned savings,” said Senator Collins.  “If you are contacted by these Social Security imposters, please report it to my Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.”

 

The Social Security Administration will never:

 

  • Threaten to suspend your Social Security number or benefits or take other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee;

 

  • Call demanding an immediate payment or require a specific means of payment, such as a retail gift card, wire transfer, or cash;

 

  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment; or

 

  • Demand secrecy in handling a Social Security-related problem. 

 

The Aging Committee has held 25 hearings in the past seven years to examine scams affecting older Americans, including a January 29th hearing highlighting the Social Security scam.  Senator Collins also led a letter to the Social Security Administration, and Senators Collins and Bob Casey (D-PA) led letters to the SSA Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to request information about how these agencies are addressing the Social Security scam and to urge agency leaders to take action to protect seniors.