Bamboozled August 3, 2017: Social Security schemes are gunning for you

Fraudsters have made a new effort to steal your Social Security dollars.

It’s an impersonation scheme with ugly consequences for those who depend on federal benefits.

Hucksters posing as Social Security Administration (SSA) employees are calling benefits recipients across the country, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said in a recent consumer warning,

“The caller attempts to acquire personally identifiable information from victims to then edit the victims’ direct deposit, address, and telephone information with SSA,” the warning said.

Yup. They trick you into giving up your personal information, and then they change your payment information with SSA, lining their own pockets with your money.

OIG said the impersonator calls come from a telephone number with a 323 area code. That’s Los Angeles, but know these calls could come from anywhere.

The caller identifies himself as an SSA employee, and in some cases tells the would-be victim they’re due a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment to their Social Security benefits.

Next, the caller says in order to get the increase, you have to verify your personal information, including your name, date of birth, Social Security number (SSN), parents’ names and more.

Once the impersonator gets the info, they contact SSA and make changes to the victim’s direct deposit, address and telephone information, OIG said.

What makes this scam complicated is that SSA employees do sometimes contact benefits recipients by telephone, and in some circumstances, may ask for a confirmation of personal information.

You have to be proactive here.

If you get a call from someone identifying themselves as working for Social Security, don’t give out your information. Instead, call SSA yourself at (800) 772-1213 or visit a local Social Security office.

This isn’t the first warning given by the agency in recent months.

In June, it warned about a scam using the name of a disgraced disability attorney in Kentucky. We’re mentioning this here because hey, Jersey is the home of colorful characters. And scammers could use this trick here.

People who used the attorney to apply for disability benefits received phone calls from someone claiming to have information about a compensation fund they were eligible for.

The scammer, calling from a Washington, D.C. area code, said if you send $200 to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, you would receive $9,000 in benefits. Some were offered larger benefits if they’d send more money, and others were threatened with arrest if they didn’t send the funds, OIG said.

But of course, this was all a swindle as no such compensation fund existed.

That attorney, Eric C. Conn, separately pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a fraud with a former SSA administrative law judge and multiple doctors. The scam involved the submission of thousands of falsified medical documents to SSA to support disability applications, OIG said.

Conn agreed to pay more than $80 million, including more than $46 million to Social Security.

But a month before his July sentencing — at which he faced up to 12 years in prison — Conn removed his electronic monitoring device and fled. The FBI now has a warrant for his arrest.

You might have heard of Conn before.

Calling himself “Mr. Social Security,” Conn was known around Kentucky and beyond for his billboards and commercials starring women dubbed “Conn’s hotties.”

Before he was busted, the pseudo celebrity hired “Obama Girl” Amber Lee Ettinger to shoot a video Conn used to ask President Barack Obama to appoint him to the Social Security advisory board.

Obama didn’t bite.

Before we get off topic, remember the reason for this column.

Don’t give anyone your personal information, whether they claim to be from Social Security or anywhere else. Instead, call the agency or company directly to see if it tried to reach you.

And if you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, report it at (800) 269-0271 or online.

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