Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, and Patrick O'Carroll Jr., acting inspector general of Social Security, have issued a warning about a number of scams that have surfaced recently throughout the U.S.
The agency has received numerous reports about telephone calls or visits from people alleging to be Social Security employees. In each case, the person attempted to obtain personal information, such as a Social Security or bank account number, from the Social Security recipient.
"I find it very troubling that our most vulnerable citizens are being targeted by these unscrupulous people," Commissioner Barnhart stated. "I caution everyone to be extremely careful about releasing personal information."
The perpetrators, who identify themselves as Social Security employees, have used a variety of tactics to obtain personal information. In one instance, the caller said the Agency was experiencing a power outage and needed to verify the person's information. In another, the caller posed as an employee who needed to verify the recipient's direct deposit information.
In a third, the recipient is told their Social Security benefits are being cut because they have inherited a house from a relative; an event that would not result in a reduction of their Social Security benefit according to Commissioner Barnhart. To help perpetrate the fraud, the caller then places the recipient on hold and plays the same on-hold recordings used by Social Security. When the caller gets back on the line, the recipient is then told proceeds from the sale of the house will be sent to them if they pay the back taxes.
Acting Inspector General O'Carroll recommends people always take precautions when giving out personal information.
"You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the contact, or are confident of the person to whom you are speaking," O'Carroll said. "If in doubt, do not release information without first verifying the validity of the call." Call Social Security's toll-free number at (800) 772-1213 to verify the legitimacy of any call.
Acting Inspector General O'Carroll notes that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is working closely with the Agency to investigate all reports of suspicious activity. To report suspicious activity, please call the OIG Hotline at (800) 269-027. A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available online at OIG's website: (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/)
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