Consumers should be wary of host of scams

Published 10:25 am Thursday, August 12, 2010

These days, everyone needs to be cautious of scams — Internet, mail, and even phone scams — which can damage your credit score and pocketbook.

Any time someone asks for your personal information, you should be wary. Particularly cruel are swindles that target Social Security beneficiaries.

Recently, Social Security became aware of a scam targeting beneficiaries in the Southern California area. Scammers telephoned beneficiaries to tell them they were due a “stimulus payment.”

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The scammer offered to deposit the payment to each beneficiary’s account once the personal and bank account information was provided.

The scammer then contacted Social Security by telephone to request the benefits be deposited into a new account—the scammer’s account, to steal the payments.

In a similar version of this criminal ploy, the scammer calls the beneficiary to “confirm” the beneficiary’s personal and financial information.

As a rule of thumb, Social Security will not call you for your personal information such as your Social Security number or banking information.

If someone contacts you and asks for this kind of information, do not give it.

You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the contact, or are confident of the person to whom you are speaking.

If in doubt, do not release information without first verifying the validity of the call by contacting the local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Another way to protect yourself is to keep your Social Security card and other important documents locked away in a safe place. Do not give personal information to just anyone.

Also, check your Social Security earnings record. You can request a Social Security Statement online at When you receive your Statement in the mail, you can verify the accuracy of the reported earnings and request correction if necessary.

If you’ve fallen victim to fraud or identity theft, be sure to file a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place, and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the crime. Information on how to prevent scams and protect yourself can be found at You can also read Social Security’s publication, Identify Theft And Your Social Security Number, available online at and Your Social Security Number and Card, available at

Be alert when dealing with people who want your personal information, such as your bank account number, date of birth, and Social Security number. By using a little caution, you can protect yourself from scams.

Bette L. Backus is the Social Security manager in the Ironton office.