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Social Security Scams: Red Flags & How to Protect Yourself

September 23, 2023 3 mins

With one out of every five Americans collecting Social Security benefits, it’s no surprise that fraudsters use the Social Security Administration to prey on potential scam victims. Read on to learn how to identify red flags related to Social Security scams, how to prevent yourself from being scammed, and what to do if you’re already a victim.

What is a Social Security scam?

A Social Security scam involves a fraudster impersonating the Social Security Administration (SSA) to collect money, gift cards, or Social Security numbers (SSN) and other personal information. The fraudster disappears with the money or gift cards, or uses the Social Security number to steal someone’s identity or access their financial or medical information.

In these scams, an imposter may call, email, text, send letters, or message you on social media claiming to work for the SSA. They might even use the name of a real employee and send a picture to prove that they’re “real.”

4 signs that it’s a Social Security scam

  • The scammer threatens you. The SSA will never make threats.
  • They demand payment. The SSA will never request payments by phone.
  • They ask you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency, wire transfer or a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app. If this happens to you, end communication immediately. No government agency will request these forms of payment, ever.
  • They want you to verify your Social Security number. The SSA will never ask you to provide your Social Security number unless you call them.

How a Social Security scam works

Most of these scams start with a phone call or email. The fraudster will say that the target’s Social Security number will be canceled or suspended if they do not settle an outstanding debt or rectify a situation. They may even threaten arrest, employ psychological tactics, or say that the victim’s bank account is about to be seized.

Next, the caller or emailer typically offers advice for keeping accounts safe. This usually involves wiring the caller money or putting money on gift cards and giving them the code. No matter what tactic they employ, it can result in loss of money.

Even worse, many victims are tricked into giving away their information or money because the Caller ID often shows up as a number associated with the SSA, or the emails seem legitimate. (Caller ID is not a foolproof way of identifying callers today, as it can be faked.)


If they ask you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency, wire transfer or a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app, end communication immediately. No government agency will request these forms of payment.”

5 Things to know about Social Security

Remember these facts to protect yourself from a Social Security scam:

  1. Your Social Security number will never be suspended or canceled.
  2. You do not have to verify your SSN to anyone who contacts you, ever.
  3. Your bank accounts will never be seized.
  4. The SSA will never threaten you with arrest or ask you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Never send money to anyone who demands you pay them this way.
  5. The legitimate SSA number is 800.772.1213. If you think a scammer is calling you, hang up and dial 800.772.1213 to speak to the real SSA. The wait time may be long, but it pays to confirm that the SSA is actually calling you. (Remember that Caller ID is not failsafe, so don’t trust someone just because they call you from this number.)

Never give your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you.

What to do if you’re a victim of a Social Security scam

If you are a victim of a Social Security scam or have received one of these calls, report it immediately to the authorities. Go to to file your complaint directly with the Federal Trade Commission.


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