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Scam alert! Keeping your social security benefits safe from scammers and thieves

Jul 18, 2012, 8:24 a.m.

Social security scams are in abundance. It seems that there's no end to the creativity or the desire on the part of ruthless criminals to part you with your much needed social security benefit money. But just because the crooks are clever doesn't mean you can't still outsmart them. What's the best way to do that? To know exactly how they'll come at you. One of the most common ploys on the part of social security thieves is to masquerade as official government representatives over the phone, mail, or email. Here are the top 3 most frequently used -- and unfortunately effective -- Social Security theft tactics.

  1. Pie in the sky promises. At some point, your phone may ring and you may find yourself talking to someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. One of the ruses that phonies use to get to your money is by telling you they can make changes to your benefits to increase the amount of your monthly payout. If you're contacted by anyone offering this service, hang up the phone and don't give them any of your personal information. Above all, never give them your money on the promise that they'll get you a higher monthly Social Security check.
  2. The "too good to be true" angle. Another of the most commonly used tactics by Social Security thieves is to convince you that by refilling your taxes, you can get an additional refund. Needless to say, they'll ask you to fork over a treasure chest of your private information, which they'll then proceed to use to their own monetary gain. What's even worse, some of these scammers often get their victims to pay extra for their services. If you have questions about Social Security and your tax returns, always contact a tax consultant and never trust anyone that comes to you first.
  3. Just the facts. Some thieves take an even more surreptitious approach to Social Security scams by simply claiming that they're "updating their data records." These thieves often walk away with Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, and anything else they can convince their unknowing victims to divulge.

A word to the wise: If anyone ever contacts you by mail, email, or phone claiming to be an official representative and asking for your private information, report the incident right away to the Social Security Administration. By doing so, you won't only keep your own money safe, but you may also be able to help prevent the theft of someone else's benefits.

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