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According to the Federal Trade Commission, scams involving claims about Social Security are surging. Consumers lost $19 million last year, which surpasses the peak year of the IRS scam. Our office was recently contacted by a senior who was tricked into sending scammers $50,000 dollars—all of her savings! Please help spread the word about this danger.

Here’s how it works. You receive a robocall, often disguised to look like the call is from the Social Security Agency.  The scammers use a technique called “spoofing” to make it look like it’s the SSA.  This doesn’t mean the scammers know you are a senior—they cast a broad net. If you don’t have a Costco or American Express account, you would probably ignore attempts to scam you about those.

If you pick up the call, you are connected to someone who tells you a scary story. For example, they may say you’ve been overpaid and owe a big refund, or your Social Security number was used in a crime and has been suspended. If they are believable, the stress and anxiety this causes makes it more difficult to think logically. They often claim to need you to confirm the information in their record to verify they are speaking with the right person, which is a trick to gather private information they can use to harm you.

After scaring you about the consequences of these made-up circumstances, the scammer offers you a way to make this all go away quickly: send money. They may ask you to wire the money, but often they demand that you purchase gift cards, then give them the code. The money is gone in an instant, untraceable and irretrievable.

If you have been a victim of a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

If you are over 60 and a resident of Contra Costa County and need assistance filing a report or taking steps to protect yourself from identity theft, please contact us at (925) 609-7900.