Each week, the NTIC Cyber Center highlights a different social engineering scam impacting individuals and communities within the National Capital Region. We encourage everyone to share this information with friends, colleagues, and loved ones to help reduce their risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud and identity theft.
Social Security number (SSN) suspension scams are a type of government imposter scam in which perpetrators identify themselves as representatives of the Social Security Administration and attempt to convince victims that their SSNs have been suspended due to suspicious or criminal activity. Perpetrators may contact victims via letters, emails, phone calls, or text messages and try to elicit sensitive personal or financial information to commit fraud or identity theft. They then may ask victims for their full legal name, date of birth, driver’s license numbers, and financial account numbers, claiming the information is needed to verify the victims’ identities and reactivate suspended SSNs. To make the scheme more believable, perpetrators may try to affect a professional demeanor, use caller-ID spoofing techniques to display legitimate phone numbers, and embed government agency graphics and logos in email and mail correspondence. These scams can be particularly effective because victims may not realize that the Social Security Administration does not suspend Social Security numbers.
To scare victims into complying with demands for sensitive information, some perpetrators threaten legal action or the cancellation of government benefits. If these scammers are unable to reach victims by phone, they may leave professional-sounding voicemail messages with a callback number requesting that victims update their personal information.
To reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a Social Security number suspension scam, familiarize yourself with the following prevention and mitigation strategies:
Ignore anyone who claims that your SSN is suspended. Block any phone numbers associated with the scam by adjusting your phone’s settings, block the senders of associated fraudulent emails, and discard any associated mail solicitation.
Never reveal sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account information when answering an unsolicited call.
Scrutinize any US government correspondence initiated through telephone or email. US government agencies primarily contact citizens by mail sent via the US Postal Service. Because caller-ID can be spoofed to make it look as though a call originates from a legitimate source, it is best to hang up and then call the agency directly using an official phone number located on the agency’s website to verify legitimacy.
Most importantly, remember that the US government does not suspend Social Security numbers.