IG Warning - Offer to Increase Your Social Security Benefits are From Criminals
by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
In a blog we published last week, titled, "Making the Right Choice During Medicare Open Enrollment", we wrote about the plethora of ads flooding the airwaves regarding Medicare open enrollment," said certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "In that blog, we discussed how these ads could be misleading but also warned about possible scams associated with the enrollment period. Earlier this week, we then received information from Rhode Island's Long Term Care Ombudsman, Kathleen Heren, that nefarious individuals, piggybacking on these ads promising to 'add money to your social security check' and the recent COLA increase announcement, are attempting to con recipients and gain access to their accounts."
The information Attorney Connelly is referring to is a press release issued on October 20, 2022, from the Office of the Inspector General at the Social Security Administration and brought to our attention by Ms. Heren. Ms. Heren is also issuing a press release from her office here in Rhode Island warning about this fraud targeting seniors during the open enrollment period and beyond, including taking advantage of the recent COLA increase announcement. So, let's review the press release from the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA) that contains this extremely valuable information.
Press Release from Social Security
That unexpected offer from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to activate a benefit increase is from a criminal and not the real SSA. Do not share personal or financial information. Do not click on links or respond. Report suspected scams to oig.ssa.gov/report.
Criminals continue to impersonate SSA and other government agencies in an attempt to obtain personal information, and money, or download malware onto phones.
Recent reports indicate that criminals are trying to trick people into sharing personal and financial information over the phone or through deceptive text and email messages that lure recipients to a fake Social Security website. Criminals falsely advise recipients to apply to receive Social Security benefits or extra money, such as a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), or to set up an online account. The message may also provide fake contact information for SSA.
"Scammers are relentless in their attempts to lure you to their fake websites or to get you to respond in any manner to their fictitious offers. I urge members of the public to ignore unexpected messages and unsolicited offers. This simple step will help protect you from a scam," said Inspector General Gail S. Ennis. "Also, be alert for unusual business practices and contact Social Security directly with questions or concerns regarding SSA matters. Never click on the link."
"We are deeply concerned that fraudsters continue to find new ways to impersonate government agencies to deceive people into providing personal information or money," said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. "I strongly urge people to be vigilant and ignore suspicious emails, texts, or letters. If you receive a suspicious message, do not click on any links or attachments."
Ignore suspected scams and report them to oig.ssa.gov. Reporting these scams helps us identify emerging scam tactics and trends and protects others.
How the Scam Works
Recognizing the signs of a scam can help you avoid falling victim to one. These scams primarily use the telephone to contact you, but scammers may also use email, text messages, social media, or U.S. mail. Scammers pretend to be from an agency or organization you know to gain your trust. Scammers say there is a problem or a prize. Scammers pressure you to act immediately. Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.
Tips to Protect Yourself
Do not take immediate action. If you receive a communication that causes a strong emotional response, take a deep breath. Hang up or ignore the message. Talk to someone you trust.
Do not transfer your money! Do not buy that gift card! Never pay someone who insists that you pay with a gift card, prepaid debit card, Internet currency or cryptocurrency, wire transfer, money transfer, or by mailing cash. Scammers use these forms of payment because they are hard to trace.
Be skeptical. Do not believe scammers who "transfer" your call to a government official or law enforcement officer, or who feed you a number as proof. Scammers can create fake numbers and identities. Do not trust your caller ID.
Be cautious of any contact claiming to be from a government agency or law enforcement, telling you about a problem you don't recognize or an unsolicited offer. Do not provide your personal information, even if the caller has some of your information.
Do not click on links or attachments. Block unwanted calls and text messages.
For more information on Scams
Visit ftc.gov/scam to read about common scams. Scammers frequently change their approach with new tactics and messages to trick people. We encourage you to stay up to date on the latest news and advisories by following SSA OIG on Linkedln, Twitter, and Facebook or subscribing to receive email alerts.
Free Help for Medicare Open Enrollment
At Connelly Law, we are constantly searching for and networking with professional and trustworthy providers who can assist our clients with Medicare, and to that end, we want to remind you of an extraordinary resource in this area. "We have had a wonderful relationship with Kristin Caproni, a Member Agent of 'We Can Help You', a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization with a mission to help individuals navigate the often-confusing mountain of information and misinformation surrounding Social Security and Medicare," said Attorney Connelly. "We have referred multiple clients to her, and she has assisted them in finding the appropriate plan, at no cost. This assistance includes reviewing medications, and health conditions, looking at short-term and long-term needs, and signing them up with the right plan. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is so very easy to work with."
Kristin is making appointments now for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period which began October 15th and runs through December 7th. "Every year plans change and have different offerings and copayments," Ms. Caproni told us. "It is important to evaluate your Medicare plan to see if it is the most suitable for your needs. I represent five different Medicare Carriers which allows me to be an unbiased resource for Medicare Beneficiaries who wish to evaluate their plan options."
She can be reached by phone at (401) 952-8698, by email at email@example.com, or through her website at kristinhelp.com. Contact her now so that you can secure a meeting as soon as possible.