Clever scammers have been playing on people’s fears lately with phone calls impersonating the Social Security Administration, leading the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota and the Federal Trade Commission to warn people about these suspicious calls.

According to the FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight, the FTC has seen a major increase in reports of scammers telling people their Social Security numbers are connected to a crime and their bank accounts may be frozen or seized.

“The callers also try to get people to reveal their Social Security numbers by falsely claiming they have been suspended,” the FTC reports. “This is a scam. The Social Security Administration will not suspend your Social Security number, nor will it direct you to withdraw money from your bank account.”

The scam is running so rampant, the FTC received more than 76,000 reports of it from April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019 – and that’s just the people who chose to report the calls. In the past two months alone, the FTC has received 36,000 such reports.

In total, callers reported losses of $19 million from Social Security scams in the last year.

Though it can be anxiety-inducing to receive such a call, BBB reminds consumers it’s OK to be skeptical and ask questions of the caller. The Social Security Administration will never call someone and ask for their Social Security number, so if that happens, consumers should refuse to give out any personal information or confirm any information.

Here are some other tips to avoid falling victim to this convincing scam:

• Don’t trust your caller ID: The internet has made it possible for scammers to use fake IDs when they call you, so it could appear to be a legitimate or local source. If you’re suspicious, don’t make any important decisions based on the caller ID.

• Contact the Social Security Administration: If you’re concerned about a call from someone claiming to be with the SSA, you can call the real SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

• Never give personal information to unsolicited callers: As a general rule, if someone contacts you out of the blue, refuse to confirm or provide any personal information. It’s OK to get their number and verify their legitimacy before returning the call. If they’re a reputable source, they will understand.

To learn more about common – and often convincing – scams, visit www.bbb.org/scamtips. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help other people avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at www.ftc.gov/complaint and www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

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