Scams with a 2019 Twist: SSA, Grandchildren and Disasters

The Social Security Administration is not going to call you out of the blue and threaten you with arrest if you do not press a number and give your personal information.

Your grandchild does not need you to send $10,000 in small bills, folded inside magazine pages, via federal express to get him or her out of legal trouble.  Funds donated through a GoFundMe page set up after a natural disaster may not be used to help the victims.

These are some of the latest scams targeting seniors.

There has been a significant increase in fraudulent callers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration.  The caller is seeking your personal information – social security number, date of birth, full name and address.  Sometimes the caller states that he wants to help you activate a suspended social security number.   They are clever, and can “spoof” the real social security phone number so it shows up on your caller ID.

How do you know it is a fake?

Because the SSA rarely calls and, when it does, it never threatens legal action or arrest.

  • Do not give them any information. 
  • Hang up. 
  • Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

The grandchild scam is an old one, but the 2019 version comes with a twist.

The old scam involved someone impersonating the senior’s grandchild and an accomplice pretending to be a police officer of a lawyer.  They call the senior and say the grandchild is in trouble, they need the senior to send money immediately to bail the grandchild out of jail, pay a fine or pay a debt, and under no circumstances should the senior call the grandchild’s parent.  The newest twist is that, instead of a wire transfer or gift cards, they want the money sent overnight in small bills spread out over several envelopes, placed between magazine pages.

If you receive one of these calls, do not act right away.

Call your grandchild back on the number that you have for him or her – not the number given you by the scammers.  If you have already sent money by the time you realize it is a scam, then contact the shipper you used and they may be able to call it back.  File a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Natural disasters bring out scammers.

They impersonate charities, set up fake websites, or pretend to be the government and collect personal information from disaster victims under the guise of providing benefits.

If you are going to donate, then do so only to a reputable agency.

To check out an agency’s bona fides, look it up on the IRS’s tax-exempt organization search or through a charity rating system like Goldstar or Charity Navigator.  If you are a disaster victim, use NCOA’s BenefitCheckUp disaster assistance tool to find legitimate help.

And, finally:  spring storms bring both damage and scam contractors.  Do your research before hiring someone to do your repairs.

Virginia Hammerle is a licensed Texas attorney.  Her practice includes estate planning, litigation, guardianship, and probate law.  See hammerle.com for her blog and newsletter sign-up.  This column does not constitute legal advice