SSA warns citizens of increased spoofing phone calls

December 20, 2018

KENOVA - The acting inspector general of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about an ongoing caller-ID “spoofing” scheme misusing the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) national customer service phone number. SSA has received numerous reports of questionable phone calls displaying SSA’s 1-800 number on a caller-ID screen.

Kenova resident Philip Leftwich, 83, claims to have received a spoofed call that fits the description listed in the warning. He said the call-hacker claimed to represent the SSA and fraud had been detected on his account and it would be closed if no action was taken by Leftwich.

“I know (hackers) have been hacking phone calls for years now, but what worries me is that this is coming to my phone as a government-issued phone number,” Leftwich said. “I’ve never heard of that level of technology being used to do this kind of thing.”

He reported the suspicious activity to the Social Security Office in Huntington, which was able to confirm that there had been no suspicious activity recorded on his account. He also notified the West Virginia State Police, whom he said could take no action on the situation.

Leftwich said he has a heavy information-technology background and has received several scamming calls in the past. He said he saves phone numbers of each person and organization that he interacts with - and does not delete them - to keep an accurate record of whom he has spoken to.

“I’ve got numbers from 15 and even 20 years ago in my phone. I do not answer calls from numbers that I don’t know,” Leftwich said. “When I got this call I answered it, even though I had not been on the phone with the Social Security Office in quite some time.”

Leftwich isn’t alone when it comes to receiving spoofed calls from the SSA. In fact, there had been reports of suspicious calls from the listed customer service number reported in January; however, the quantity of those calls has increased in recent months.

The scheme prompted the SSA to release the following statement.

“This caller-ID spoofing scheme exploits SSA’s trusted reputation, and it shows that scammers will try anything to mislead and harm innocent people,” Stone said in an SSA October 2018 blog post. “I encourage everyone to remain watchful of these schemes and to alert family members and friends of their prevalence. We will continue to track these scams and warn citizens, so that they can stay several steps ahead of these thieves.”

The post later explains that SSA employees do contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes, and in some situations, an SSA employee may request the citizen confirm personal information over the phone. However, SSA employees will never threaten someone for information or promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent and the public is advised to hang up.

Stone urges citizens to be extremely cautious and to avoid providing information such as a Social Security number or bank account numbers to unknown people over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it. If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, you should report that information to the OIG at 800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

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