COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–The Social Security Administration (SSA) is warning everyone about possible scams via phone, text, and or email.

The communication in question may threaten to suspend your Social Security Number, threaten arrest or legal action, demand immediate payment by gift card or prepaid debit card, digital currency, or mailing cash.

The caller may try to pressure you for personal information and request secrecy about the call.

The SSA notification warns that this is a scam. Try to stay calm and advises to never provide anyone with money or personal information when you feel pressured, threatened, or scared.

The Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission each released data during the first week of December to warn of gift card scams. Basically, whoever is contacting you is giving you a doomsday scenario and tells you that it can be avoided if you pay with a gift card.

The FTC reports that $148 million were reported stolen via gift card in the first nine months of 2021. The report also said Target gift cars accounted for about $35 million in payments to scammers, that’s over twice as much as other brands.

Gift Card Scams have increased by more than 200% since 2017

The BBB’s recent study shows gift cards scams have increased by more than 250% during the four-year period of 2017 to 2020. Plus, it shows gift cards are the preferred method of payment for scammers. Why? The cards are untraceable. Using a gift card is like using cash.

“Gift cards are very easy to buy and use and there are no protections, said Judy Dollison the President at Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio.

When you pay with a credit card, often times the bank will work with you to stop payment if you did not receive the product or service you purchased.

Dollison noted people over the age of 65 are the most vulnerable to these types of schemes. Just know, this age group has plenty of company. According to the BBB’s study, all age groups are susceptible to the scam.

AGEREPORTS
18-2496
25-34126
35-44146
44-55158
55-65187
65 and older212
Source: BBB.org

What you should do

Hang up or ignore it. If you receive a suspicious call, text, or email, hang up or do not respond. Government employees will not threaten you, demand immediate payment, or try to gain your trust by sending you pictures or documents.

“Even if you just suspect that something may not be legitimate, hang up the phone, click off the email, and seek an independent source for that contact information,” said Dollison.

Seeking an independent source means avoiding search engines, which are vulnerable to sites that masquerade as legitimate.

If it’s a government agency, go to Ohio.gov, or IRS.gov, and use their contact information on the site to find out if you owe money. The bottom line: If what’s being told to you seems nefarious, it probably is.

Reporting scams, resources to keep handy

  • Amazon: (888) 280-4331
  • Ebay: (866) 305-3229
  • Google Play: (855) 466-4438
  • iTunes: (800) 275-2273
  • Steam: report online at help.steampowered.com
  • MoneyPak: (866) 795-7969

If you or someone you know may have come in contact with such communication, you can report the encounter with the SSAs Office of the Inspector General.

If you think your or someone you know identity has been compromised you have a number of options for reporting this.

The Internal Revenue Service has a webpage with numerous links to assist you with reporting the breach if the issue is tax-related.

You may also provide the information for numerous fraud types: from phone calls to debt collection, the Federal Trade Commission wants to know about it. You can pursue action through this link.

The Ohio Attorney General website offers a number of ways for you to be engaged in fraud prevention.

The Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio will always accept the information regarding possible scams. The BBB will also try to resolve legitimate business calls from the scheming ones. You can report to the BBB through this link.

Report Social Security-related scams. If you receive a suspicious call, text, or email that mentions Social Security, ignore it and report it to the SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Do not be embarrassed if you shared personal information or suffered a financial loss.

Get up-to-date information. Follow SSA OIG on Twitter @TheSSAOIG and Facebook @SSA Office of the Inspector General for the latest information on Social Security-related scams. Visit the Federal Trade Commission for information on other government scams.