Skip to content

New Social Security Warning: Beware of Impostors After Cash, Data

After a rash of reports, a top official assails the ongoing nationwide scam

En español | In a new public service announcement, the chief of the Social Security Administration (SSA) warns that scammers continue to call and email people, pretend there is a problem with their accounts and demand money or sensitive data.

"Some of these scammers may say threatening things like, ‘You will be arrested if you don't make payments or provide personal information,’" Commissioner Andrew Saul says in the minute-long video.

Officials said the rash of calls are part of an ongoing nationwide scam. In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2019, the SSA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) received more than 450,000 impostor complaints, or 1,230-plus a day, according to a report. There were only 15,221 such complaints in the previous 12-month period.

Some victims have been threatened with arrest if they don't call back; have been told that their Social Security number has been linked to criminal activity and been suspended; have been informed that for a cost-of-living increase they must supply their name, Social Security number and date of birth; or have been told that they must provide their banking data, officials say.

Hang up, then report

The SSA occasionally makes legitimate calls to people who have ongoing business with the agency. Generally, employees call those who have recently applied for a benefit, are receiving payments and need to update records or have requested a call from the agency. But if you receive a suspicious call, hang up, officials say, and report it to It is important to keep in mind that Social Security employees will not:

  • Tell you your number has been suspended.
  • Demand immediate payment and ask for a credit or debit card number by phone.
  • Demand you pay a debt without the ability to appeal it.
  • Require a specific way to pay a debt, such as cash, a prepaid debit card or gift card.

If there is a problem with a person's Social Security number or record, in most cases the agency mails a letter, officials say.

In a twist on the phone scam, fraudsters have been emailing fake documents to try to compel people to comply with their demands. Victims have received emails with attachments that appear to be letters or reports from Social Security or its watchdog arm, the OIG. These letters may use official letterhead and government jargon to persuade victims they are legitimate, but red flags include spelling and grammar errors, officials say.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.