Your Social Security Number Isn't About To Be Suspended
The importance of Social Security Numbers makes them white-hot targets for criminals and fraudsters. In recent years, a scam used to steal them has gone from an occasional nuisance to a full-blown epidemic. Here's how it goes: A scammer will call someone and inform them that due to "suspicious activity," their SSN has been "suspended," and in order to reactivate it, they need to either pay a small fee or "confirm" their SSN by reading it over the phone. The former is a straight-up lie to get your money, while the latter is a straight-up lie to get your SSN so that they can steal your identity/benefits.
In 2017, the Social Security Administration reported that 3,200 people had fallen victim to this scam, for a total cost of $210,000. In 2018, that figure rocketed to 35,000 victims and a total cost of $10 million. And in 2019? Between February and March alone, over 36,000 people were successfully scammed out of $6.7 million. This is big business, which means that it's possible that you or your loved ones might be targeted. If that happens, here's what you need to remember:
- Your SSN isn't a credit card or a library card or a gift card for Chili's. It can't be "suspended."
- Do not give your SSN to any random stranger who asks for it. This is a pretty good rule to follow all the time, if we're honest.
- Ignore any demands for payment. Even if your caller ID is showing the official number for the SSA, ignore it and politely (or impolitely) put the phone down. Scammers can manipulate the phone system to show that they're calling from the SSA.
- If you want to be sure that nothing is awry with your SSN, call the SSA yourself using only the number posted on their official website. They won't mind; in fact, they'll think you're super cool for being so vigilant. Probably.
Related: 18 Stupid Scams You Can't Believe You Fell For
You Don't Have To Pay Your Energy Company Any Money RIGHT NOW
In the last few years, energy companies have started installing smart meters in homes across the country for the express purpose of allowing consumers to monitor their own energy consumption. It's a fine idea, but this has given rise to a new scam wherein crooks contact consumers under the guise of working for the local energy company and ask them to pay a "deposit" on their smart meter. And if they don't? Well, they can kiss their power goodbye.
This scam is usually carried out via phone, but in some instances, fake utility reps have visited people's homes and demanded money in person. In some cases, fraudsters have even used this access to case the joint for a robbery -- like Joe Pesci in Home Alone, but with your elderly relatives instead of Kevin McAllister. According to a security manager at Con Edison, this scam nets "tens of thousands of dollars a year." If someone tries this on you, here's what you need to do: