This morning, I received a call from this phone number: 443-674-8443. I did not see the caller ID since I answered hands-free while driving. A computer-generated voice began saying:
Hi, this is Officer William Parker, calling you from the Department of Social Security Administration. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that there is a legal enforcement tax and filed on your social security number for criminal activities. When you get this message, kindly revert as soon as possible on our number that is 443-764-8443—I repeat—443-764-8443 before we begin with the legal proceedings. Thank you.
Even with the traffic noise and the music from the radio, I still noticed the slight inconsistencies in grammar and the few missing articles. Since I work in special needs planning, I have done my share of work with Social Security on behalf of clients. In my experience, the agency communicates with letters on paper. Generally, many sheets of paper, one of which requests that YOU phone THEM at a number beginning with “1-800”. For the record, the Social Security (not “Department of”) Administration’s number is 1-800-772-1213, and you can verify this by looking on their official website: http://ssa.gov. I will admit that I once phoned the fake emergency virus removal number that popped up when my computer screen abruptly went blank, so I too am not immune to scams. With all the clues, this robo-call screamed “SCAM”.
Usually, I ignore these; but this was the fifth similar call in a couple of weeks. So, I called them back to call them out. A man with an unrecognizable accent picked up the phone after the first ring. “Social Security”, he answered. Before he could start asking me for personal information like my actual Social Security number or ask me to pay for something, I growled. Then, I immediately said, “This is a scam. Stop calling me. I am reporting this number. Goodbye.”
If your senior family member or family member with a disability received such a call, would they be confident enough to see it as a scam? Would they know it, especially if the person is on disability benefits and is aware that there are many rules to follow? Hearing the words “legal enforcement”, “tax”, and “criminal activity” in the same sentence from someone purporting to be an “officer” could be scary indeed. Your family member might, in good faith, phone back and begin to share personal information that could lead to identity theft and/or the theft of actual funds, all while thinking that he/she is clarifying something with the authorities.
Youth with disabilities often attend social-skills classes, where they are taught the ins and outs of personal interactions and many things about how to be cautious and appropriate when engaging with an unknown person, live and face-to-face. Many youth and adults with disabilities own and use cell phones and computers, answer email, and engage in all kinds of communication and maybe even use financial-transaction apps. Please talk with your family member about these kinds of scams. Recommend that they never provide personal information by phone until they have confirmed the veracity of the call and that they never provide personal information by email or on social media. Encourage them to talk to a family member or staff member or case worker if they receive such a communication.
Scammers are equal opportunity predators, but people, who need more and assistance to process information and those who process it differently, are more vulnerable to the scare tactics of professional scammers. You can go here: https://www.ssa.gov/phila/scams.htm for more information on how to avoid and report Social Security scams.