For those of you who get Social Security benefits, it would take a Herculean effort to get you to give those up. But, the Social Security Administration (SSA) tells ConsumerAffairs that there are scammers inventing new ways to divert your SSA benefits to their mailboxes, not yours.
These scams aren’t really new in concept, but the SSA says that artificial intelligence (AI) has allowed scammers to elevate their game like no other technology has to date.
“Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a primary driver of emerging technologies and is impacting society in ways that everyone throughout the public and private sector are just beginning to understand,” the SSA’s Anthony “AJ” Monaco, special agent in charge, told members of a House Committee on Ways and Means subcommittee recently.
Monaco said agents discovered that an AI-powered “chatbot” was being used to impersonate beneficiaries and contact customer service representatives to divert monthly benefit payments to spurious accounts.
Similar to government impersonation scams investigated by the SSA, the chatbot numbers originated overseas. Using chatbots, stolen Social Security benefits were moved into organized networks of "money mules" all over the country, where the proceeds were collected and moved.
How these new tricks could show up in your life
The SSA told ConsumerAffairs that there are five things Social Security members need to know if they want to keep these scammers in their place.
They use Toll-Free Numbers (TFN) rather than private or commercial phone numbers.
Rather than the old way of cold-calling their SSA targets, the scammers are now using TFN to send via text messages.
Scammers are still posing as actual SSA/SSA Office of the Inspector General or other government officials when they contact prospective victims. “In one version of the SSA Scam, scammers are posing as the Attorney General of Texas, who cites multiple (purported) violations of Texas criminal law and points the victim to an ‘SSA’ TFN to clear up the problems or face criminal prosecution,” an SSA spokesperson said.
Scammers use one scam to get in the door, like a compromised Amazon/bank account, then move on to another, like a SSA scam that requires you to move your money until your SSN is restored. The way this works is the so-called “Amazon” (or other retail/financial entity) states there is a problem with your account, that your ID has been compromised, and you have to contact SSA to deal with your compromised SSN. They are then passed over to a scammer posing as an SSA official.
Scammers are using targeted information on victims, particularly those of Social Security age – 65 plus, rather than spamming a whole area code or batch of phone numbers. It’s not entirely clear how they get detailed information on individuals, but it is likely purchased on the dark web, or from dirty data brokers.
So, is your SSA info on the dark web?
Starting to see any beads of sweat on your brow? Not yet? Then, give us two more minutes.
Can you tell if your Social Security Number (SSN) has reached the dark web underworld market? If you can’t, AllAboutCookies shared some warning signs that your SSN may have been exposed and could be available for use in fraudulent activity:
Receiving a noticeable increase in scam calls and phishing emails
Receiving a letter from an organization explaining they experienced a breach where your personal information, including your SSN, was possibly exposed
Receiving mail from unfamiliar companies or financial institutions regarding products you didn't purchase, loans you didn't request, or accounts you didn't open
Noticing unrecognized activity on your credit reports
Receiving notification of tax return fraud
Learning about the enrollment of a medical insurance policy
What to do if your SSN is on the dark web
“It's certainly unsettling to discover your Social Security has fallen into the wrong hands and is now available to any cybercriminal for a nominal fee,” AllAboutCookies’ Mark Knowles says.
“However, all isn't lost should you discover your SSN surfaced on the dark web,” he suggested, offering some precautions you can take to minimize the potential damage.
To prevent fraud, freeze your credit and SSN immediately.
Create a mySocialSecurity account with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to claim your number, review your earnings, and make 100% sure that there aren't any unauthorized attempts to apply for Social Security benefits in your name.
Contact the SSA immediately if you suspect any fraudulent activity involving your SSN.
Obtain a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com from each of the credit bureaus and check for any unrecognized accounts or charges in your name.
Keep an eye on all open credit and bank accounts for unauthorized activity and set up alerts.
One last step: If you want future peace of mind, you can also use an identity theft protection service. ConsumerAffairs offers reviews of those services if you’re interested.