The next time your phone rings, watch out. It could be the latest Social Security scam

How scammers tell you to pay

By learning how scammers ask you to pay, find out how to spot – and stop – scams.
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By learning how scammers ask you to pay, find out how to spot – and stop – scams.

First it was the IRS.

Now it’s the Social Security administration.

Chances are that you or someone you know has gotten a call about a problem and they need information or money from you.

For the longest time, they said you could be arrested if you didn’t pay money due to the IRS.

Now it’s about the Social Security Administration and someone is telling you there has been “suspicious activity” involving your number — or it has been involved in a crime.

“You should not engage with the caller or provide personal information or money in response to requests or threats,” according to a statement from Inspector General of Social Security Gail S. Ennis.

On these calls, someone says the government has suspended your Social Security number. They need you to confirm that number so it can be reactivated.

You might be told to withdraw money from the bank and keep it on gift cards for safekeeping. Of course, the caller will need the PIN numbers from the back of the gift cards.

“Thing is, Social Security numbers do not get suspended,” a message posted on the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website states. “This is just a variation of a government imposter scam that’s after your SSN, bank account number, or other personal information.”

Notes about this scam by the Fort Worth Police Department recently were shared on social media sites.

Complaints from people who have received this type of call are on the rise.

More than 75,000 reports about Social Security imposters have been logged over the past year. Those callers reported losing $19 million, according to the FTC’s Data Spotlight.

Safety tips

Here are some tips to stay safe:

Don’t trust the Caller ID because scammers can alter that information.

Don’t give out personal information on the phone to strangers.

If you have questions, call an agency directly. The number for the Social Security Administration is 800-772-1213.

Know that the government generally reaches out to people through postal mail.

And don’t ever wire money or put it on prepaid debit cards for “official government service.”

“I encourage everyone to alert your family and friends about how common these scams are, and to be very cautious when speaking with unknown callers, even if you recognize the caller ID,” Ennis said.

Officials recommend adding your telephone number to the National Do Not Call Registry by going online to www.donotcall.gov.

Report fraud

Report the Social Security fraud online at oig.ssa.gov/report. Report any government scam online at FTC.gov/complaint.

Report any government scam online at FTC.gov/complaint.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.