It was just a few years ago that the Federal Trade Commission was flooded with complaints about scammers pretending to be from the IRS who called consumers and falsely told them they owed taxes. In its peak year, consumers reported losing $17 million to these IRS scams.
With tax day right around the corner, we have seen a big drop in reports about IRS imposter scams, according to the FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight. The bad news is that scammers have found a new way to try to exploit consumers by falsely claiming to be from the Social Security Administration.
The FTC has seen a dramatic increase in reports from consumers that fraudsters are calling to say their Social Security numbers are connected to a crime and their bank accounts will be frozen or seized. The callers direct people to “protect” their funds by withdrawing the money in their bank accounts and putting it on gift cards. The scammers then ask for the gift card PIN numbers for “safekeeping.” The callers also try to get people to reveal their Social Security numbers by falsely claiming they have been suspended. This is a scam. The Social Security Administration will not suspend your Social Security number, nor will it direct you to withdraw money from your bank account.
The FTC received more than 76,000 reports from consumers about Social Security scams in the past 12 months (April 1, 2018-March 31, 2019), with reported losses from these scams of $19 million. The trend has accelerated in the first few months of 2019 – with 36,000 reports about Social Security scams in the past two months alone and reported losses of $6.7 million.
The latest data spotlight includes advice on how to avoid falling victim to a Social Security scam. And although we have seen a reduction in complaints about IRS scams, they have not gone away, and the FTC offers tips on how to avoid these scams as well.