Government benefits programs, such as the Social Security disability program, are a prime target of scammers. While most people think that they are smart enough to spot a scam or outwit a scammer, unscrupulous individuals are constantly dreaming up new ways to separate good people from their money, and even the most sophisticated targets can be caught off guard. Therefore, disability benefits applicants and recipients should take steps to protect themselves from disability scams. Our Baltimore disability lawyer explains how below.
Common Disability Scams
Scammers are a crafty bunch. For example, most disability scams involve the scammer impersonating a representative from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to trick their targets into divulging confidential information (such as Social Security or credit card numbers) or paying them a fee. These scams take several forms, including:
- Fraudulent phone calls: In this scenario, the scammer calls the target and impersonates an SSA representative to obtain their Social Security number or demand money. They can also take the form of “friendly” service calls in which the scammer attempts to sell the target a service that the SSA actually provides for free. Some scammers can be very convincing, as they may use the names of actual SSA employees or use “spoofing” techniques to disguise their phone number as a legitimate SSA number. A tell-tale sign that a call is a scam is that the caller uses a threatening or urgent tone.
- Phishing: This type of scam involves the scammer sending the target an email from an address that resembles a legitimate SSA account and may even contain attachments on actual SSA letterhead. One common way to identify a phishing email is to pay close attention to the sender’s address. For example, it may be “email@example.com” rather than “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
- Mail fraud: Commonly targeting older individuals, mail fraud is similar to phishing, only that it involves physical mail rather than email. Fake letters may even come on real-looking SSA letterhead and be accompanied by convincing SSA forms that purport to entitle the target to extra disability benefits. A common red flag that a letter is fraudulent is that it asks the recipient to reply with a check or bank account information.
The easiest way to identify a scam is to pay attention to the tone of the communication. For example, if the caller sounds threatening or says they will cut off your benefits unless you comply, they are probably a scammer.
Be Familiar with the SSA’s Communication Procedures
The SSA might call or text disability beneficiaries, but it will never do the following things:
- Threaten you
- Suspend your Social Security number
- Demand an immediate payment from you
- Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer
- Ask for gift card numbers over the phone or to wire or mail cash
If you suspect that you have been the target of a disability scam, you may contact the Office of the Inspector General.
Contact a Baltimore Disability Lawyer for More Information
For more information about Social Security disability scams and how to protect yourself from them, please contact Baltimore disability lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.