Unfortunately, there are many people out there using the COVID-19 crisis to their advantage by scamming others. These scams are running rampant, and if fallen for can greatly compromise the security of your finances, identity, and more. It’s important to be aware of ongoing scams, as there are several types of fraud with recognizable patterns you can be on the lookout for. Fraudsters will often use similar methods or the same blatant lies to get what they’re after.
Known Social Security Scams
Please know this list certainly does not cover every scam out there, or describe all variations of these types of scams. The following notices from the Social Security Administration describe some of the most prevalent scams related to COVID-19 that they and other government agencies are seeing.
“The Inspector-General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19-related office closures.” This is simply not true. The Social Security Administration has stated numerous times that they will, “not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed to walk-in visitors.” Examples of these letters can be viewed on the Office of the Inspector General website.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is alerting the public about scammers who offer COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate.” Learn about this and other COVID-19 fraud from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is alerting people about various COVID-19-related fraud and scams. From contact tracing scams to treatment claims, government imposter scams, and fraud related to economic impact payments.” Learn about all COVID-19-related fraud and scams from the Federal Trade Commission. This type of scam should be reported directly to the FTC.
“The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) is alerting financial institutions about Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud. They have identified multiple fraud schemes, including identity-related fraud, in which filers submit applications for UI payments using stolen or fake identification to receive payments.” Find more about UI fraud schemes from FINCEN.
“To report this type of fraud, please contact the appropriate state fraud hotline on the Department of Labor’s website. If you receive Supplemental Security Income benefits, and you suspect UI fraud, contact your local Social Security Office immediately.”
Social Security Administration Rules to Remember
- No government agency will contact you offering COVID-19-related grants or economic impact payments in exchange for personal financial information, an advance fee, or gift cards.
- The Social Security Administration will never require payment via retail gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, or internet currency like Bitcoin, or by mailing cash
- The Social Security Administration will never threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee.
What should I do if I think I’m being scammed?
If you have suspicious contact in any form with someone asking for personal information, trust your gut. Do not respond, do not engage, or end the conversation as quickly as possible.
Report the fraudulent activity to the appropriate entity. Please see the links above for reporting specific scams. If you’re not sure or have been targeted for an unlisted COVID-19 or Social Security scam, report it to the Office of the Inspector General.
If you report the fraud over the phone, the SSA advises that you, “request that they provide you with written documentation that you have reported the alleged fraud. At a minimum, request a case number for your fraud report, and write down the case number, the name of the person you spoke to, and the time and date of your call.”
The SSA also recommends that you, “retain this information, along with any written confirmations, to ensure you can provide evidence that you reported the fraud if you need it later.”
Stay alert, safe, and smart!