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Jeri Fields: Keeping elders safe from scams

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was Tuesday. On that day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most federal employees use to gain access to federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:
• Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
• Suspend your Social Security number.
• Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
• Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
• Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
• Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:
• When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
• As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

Jeri Fields is the manager of the district Social Security office in Ironton.

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