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Jill On Money: Stop the scam!

Jill Schlesinger on

Scams have been in our vernacular for hundreds of years. From confidence ploys (Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff) to the modern day telemarketing and advance fee schemes, the preponderance of crooks seeking to separate you from your money is dizzying.

The sheer volume and sophistication of these shady con artists has prompted the Social Security Administration (SSA) to raise public awareness of government imposter scams, with a “National Stop the Scam Day” (March 7), though every day could be labeled as such.

Today’s criminals have become brazen in their schemes, impersonating people from the SSA or other government agencies, like the IRS, in an attempt to obtain personal information or money.

The scammers have upped their game because they sometimes use legitimate names of government employees, “spoof” official government phone numbers and websites (including local police departments) and often send official-looking documents as attachments.

These thieves use a variety of methods to ensnare you, but whether it is a call, a text, or a social media message, they rely on a (false) claim to be from the Social Security Administration or the Office of the Inspector General to lure you into their web.

“They might use the name of a person who really works there and might send a picture or attachment as ‘proof,’” the SSA website says. This makes the recipient of the contact feel like the conversation is indeed legitimate.

 

To help you spot a fraudster, there are a few red flags to consider.

Scammers will often say there is a problem or a prize; exert pressure on you to “act now!”; and prompt you to pay them in a specific way (e.g. gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or by mailing cash).

If you are contacted by someone who appears to be from the SSA, keep in mind that Social Security personnel will NEVER:

— Threaten you with arrest or legal action because you don’t agree to pay money.

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