Approximately 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized by some form of financial abuse, with the average loss per victim exceeding $120,000. While financial abuse is sometimes perpetrated by family members or “friends,” it is often the result of organized online and telephone scams. According to a recent study by Wells Fargo, nearly half of all seniors report that they know someone who has fallen victim to a scam.
The Social Security Administration has issued a warning about scammers who pose as employees of the agency in an attempt to gather personal information about seniors. In one such scam, a senior receives a phone call with a recorded message claiming that his or her Social Security number has been suspended for suspicious illegal activity. The message provides a phone number that the person must call to rectify the problem and to prevent his or her assets from being frozen. The victim calling the number will be asked to provide personal information, which can then be used to steal his or her identity.
In a similar scam, a “live” caller claims to work for the Social Security Administration and asks the victim to verify information such as his or her Social Security number, address and birthdate. Again, this information can be used to steal one’s identity or for other nefarious purposes.
According to the Social Security Administration, people should never provide personal information online or over the phone unless they are absolutely certain about the identity of the person who has contacted them. If you have questions regarding an email, phone call, text message or other form of communication from someone claiming to work for the Social Security Administration, you can find out if it is legitimate by contacting any Social Security office or calling the agency’s toll-free number, 800-772-1213.