CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned consumers of a seemingly relentless effort by con artists to pose as the Social Security Administration and steal personally identifiable information.
The increasingly prevalent scam relies upon unsolicited phone calls and various excuses to steal Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.
Dozens of West Virginia consumers, on average, are reporting similar activity each week, according to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. The impersonators often claim the consumer has a compromised Social Security number or a frozen account, which in turn, threatens his or her monthly check.
“Scam artists play to one’s worst fear,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “These impersonators thrive upon consumers who react before they think. That’s why it is so important for everyone to take a deep breath, hang up the phone and report the call to authorities. This will protect you from handing over information to the wrong person.”
Impostors may also ask consumers to verify personal information, including their Social Security number, to replace a Social Security card, fix an issue with their online account, process a cost-of-living adjustment or rectify benefits that have been underpaid and need adjustment.
The impostors will sometimes even threaten legal action against consumers who do not comply.
Consumers should always verify any information by calling the legitimate Social Security Administration’s number and never make payments using wire transfer, gift cards or cash. Most government agencies and reputable companies will not seek personal information via an unsolicited phone call or email.
Additionally, consumers should be aware of spoofing tactics, in which the phone number appears legitimate, but is not.
Anyone receiving such a call should report the information to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. Its fraud hotline can be reached by phone at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
Those with questions or concerns also can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.