It is unfortunately common in our society for scams to target Social Security recipients. When it comes to protecting your personal information and your hard-earned cash, financial advisor D. Paterson Cope recommends learning how to spot scams early on.
Some of the most common warning signs of a Social Security scam are listed below, along with suggestions on how to avoid falling victim.
Scammers Threaten Legal Action
Fear is a common tactic used by scammers to persuade people to hand over personal information or send money. People are called and threatened with legal action if they don’t pay fees or fines, for example.
Even if they have a legitimate issue to discuss with you, the Social Security Administration will never threaten you with legal action.
Scammers Not Reaching Out Via Mail
In order to receive an official response from the Social Security Administration, you must use the US Postal Service to mail a letter. No email or text message will ever be sent to inform recipients that they have a problem with their benefits or that they need additional information.
Ignore any direct communication from anyone except the postal service, as it is highly likely that they are scamming you. Hang up and call the Social Security Administration (SSA) using the phone number provided on their website or other official documentation they have sent you if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call.
Scammers Request Payments in Specific Ways
Occasionally, a Social Security beneficiary may have a debt to the SSA. In these cases, the SSA will send an official letter notifying the recipient and providing instructions on how to make payments via U.S. mail, as in the previous example.
However, the Social Security Administration will never ask you to pay a fine or fee with money sent to the government via wire transfer or pre-paid card. For one simple reason, scammers tell their victims that payments must be made this way because it is extremely difficult to recover and trace them.
Any of these methods of payment, or any other gift card, should be avoided at all costs.
Scammers Promise an Increase in Benefits … for a Price
Scammers often tell Social Security recipients that, in exchange for a payment to them, they can increase their benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
For Social Security benefits, there is no such thing as a “this for that” trade, as explained by D. Paterson Cope. All of them are based on a person’s personal situation and work history.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will send a letter in the mail if someone is owed an additional amount of benefits. Nobody from the SSA ever asked for a payment in exchange for a boost in benefits, and they never will.
About D. Paterson Cope
He is the founder and CEO of Cope Private Wealth, a financial planning and wealth management firm that specializes in helping retirees and those who are about to retire with their financial decisions. He has been providing financial advice for over 30 years. As of 1997, he had been certified as a financial planner (CFP). When he’s not working, he likes to spend time with his family in Mountain Brook, including his wife, Jennifer Miree Cope.