This week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had some good news for Social Security recipients: due to record high inflation, they will see an 8.7% increase in their benefits in 2023- the highest such increase in 40 years.
However, along with this announcement came a series of warnings about the fraud risks that people who get Social Security payments face.
“That unexpected offer from the Social Security Administration 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,” the agency said on Thursday in a released statement, describing such offers as a scam.
The agency also noted that criminals continue to impersonate government officials in order to access personal information and obtain money, as well as get victims to download malware onto phones.
On October 13, the Social Security Administration announced that starting in January, benefits will increase by more than $140 per month on average. In 2023, the average Social Security retiree benefit will be $1,827 per month; this is an increase of $146 from the 2022 rate of $1,681.
The SSA last week announced that some 70 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients will have the new cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) automatically added to their Social Security payments, and that no action is required on the recipients’ part.
However, since the announcement, scammers have taken advantage of people by sending false text messages and emails that direct them to a fake Social Security website. These types of scams can result in individuals giving up their personal or financial information without realizing it.
“Criminals falsely advise recipients to apply to receive Social Security benefits or extra money, such as a cost-of-living adjustment, or to set up an online account,” the Social Security Administration said in its statement, adding that the “message may also provide fake contact information for SSA.”
It’s worth noting that with a few exceptions, SSA tends to communicate with individuals through mail instead of phone calls or text messages.
“If there is a problem, we will mail you a letter,” the agency says, stressing that they will only contact recipients if they have “requested a call or have ongoing business with” the SSA. The agency reminds beneficiaries of this because of the influx of robocalls and illegitimate live calls.
What are the fraudulent tendencies of these phone calls? According to the agency, the scams usually involve someone contacting a potential victim, claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. The scammer then tells the victim that they are entitled to increased benefits, but need to provide personal information – like their date of birth or Social Security number – in order for those payments to begin.
Another scamming technique involves the suggestion that the victim’s online identity has been stolen, so “the agency” asks for wire transfers or cash payments to resolve “the issue.”
The bottom line is that any offer to increase your Social Security benefits should be considered a scam. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you – there are no legitimate offers out there that can magically increase your benefits. If you have questions about what steps you need to take to maximize your retirement income, consult with an expert who can help you make the most informed decisions for your unique situation.
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