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I have gotten two phone calls this week from a 210 area code. A clearly automated voice claimed to be an officer with the Department for Social Security. I was informed there are legal proceedings being filed involving my social security number, and that I need to call them back at that same number. Sounds like a plot to rack up toll fees or something. Am I being conned?

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  • 7
    While it certainly seems to be a scam, an online area code look up site shows that the 210 area code is San Antonio, Texas. So unless it's the phone company itself, they aren't going to be making money via toll fees (and it wouldn't be worth it for a legit phone company). – GreenMatt Aug 13 at 21:01
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    Just search YouTube for Scammer Revolts IRS scammers – Sentinel Aug 14 at 5:48
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    If you call back, look up the official phone number, and call that number. Not some number that has been given you. – Willem Van Onsem Aug 14 at 9:28
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    If there are any legal proceedings, you will receive something in writing. Personally, I would treat this as a scam until/unless such a letter arrives. – Mawg Aug 14 at 11:47
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    Are they talking in a heavy Indian accent? Do they not know the answers to even the most simple tax-related questions every American knows? (like the name of the form you have to fill when filing taxes, or the deadline for the yearly tax report). (even if these red flags are present it's a scam as the IRS will never cold-call you, but with these flags it's just so much more obvious) – vsz Aug 15 at 4:39
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It is not a plot to rack up toll fees but to get you to pay them money to get the alleged legal proceeding halted. I too have received numerous such phone calls (most with faked Caller IDs with Area Code 202 (the area code for Washington DC)) and been told that an arrest warrant has been issued by the Federal Court in Santa Clara CA (sometimes Santa Barbara CA) and that the local police are on their way to my home to execute the warrant and pick me up. I can make all this go away by sending a money order or giving the caller a credit card number to which they can charge the amount due etc.

There is no such thing as the Department of Social Security in the Federal Government; it is the Social Security Administration and it never calls you to tell you about legal proceedings or anything else. It is all done by mail. So yes, this call is spam. Just ignore it.

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The Social Security Administration mails documents; they don't call.

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    Suggested edits: change Administration to boldface and point out that there is no such thing as the Department of Social Security. Also, make it clear that the call is spam. – Dilip Sarwate Aug 13 at 19:38
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    @AdrianLarson You can report the scam to the SSA's Office of the Inspector General: oig.ssa.gov/report – pboss3010 Aug 13 at 19:54
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    I have been called twice by SSA--both times it was legitimate. Neither one was about "legal" issues related to my social security number. – mkennedy Aug 13 at 20:11
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    That they never call, but always mail. – Konerak Aug 14 at 11:03
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    You can find out how they contact you by checking here: faq.ssa.gov/en-US – April Aug 14 at 13:01
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I work as a contractor at the Social Security Administration(ssa.gov), and am working on documenting an app we have (eMailer) that allows employees to send you email or texts with pre-approved content that does not involve your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) such as your SSN.

Important information may come via email, not just postal mail, but only if you either request some one-time information (as above, and it will appear to originate from ThankYou@SSA.gov) OR you have a "My Social Security" online account (more info here: https://faq.ssa.gov/en-US/Topic/?id=CAT-01154 )

Here's how you can report fraud, such as people pretending to be from the SSA: https://faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-10018

If you receive a suspicious call or are unsure of the identity of someone alleging to be from SSA, you should report details of the call to the Office of the Inspector General at ‎1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

edited to correct the "A" in SSA

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    Social Security Agency or Social Security Administration as mentioned in other answers? – Midavalo Aug 14 at 15:49
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    You're right! I think it's because I always see it as an acronym, and rarely the word. Have some history: ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html – April Aug 14 at 17:01
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    +1 for showing how to report such frauds. – GreySage Aug 16 at 17:32
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Of course you're being conned. Notifications of legal proceedings never come by phone. Never. All such calls are guaranteed to be scams.

As for that call coming from the 210 area code, that's very unlikely. Spoofing caller ID is trivially simple and virtually all scammers do so. It's very unlikely the scammers were in the US at all where their calls can be traced, US laws can be applied, and they can be prosecuted. The vast majority of fraudulent calls come from outside the country, and the majority of them come from a small handful of countries known for being fraud havens.

  • I wouldn't go so far as to say "never", but it's vanishingly rare. Service by non-traditional means requires a judge's permission, and is only ever done if you've been taking active measures to avoid notification. – Mark Aug 14 at 21:29
  • Agreed. US mail is the only way I've ever been contacted by SSA, IRS, local utilities, etc. When an agency publicly talks about not how you can prevent becoming a scam victim, they generally say, "We don't call, we put it in writing." and mail it." – Headblender Aug 15 at 17:47
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This is a scam and you can just ignore it. But, in general, whenever someone claiming to be a bank, government agency, or such asks you to contact them back, do not use contact information from them. Look up the actual contact information of the institution from an official source and contact them that way. Or go to your local branch in person. Be sure you are not talking to an impersonator.

If it’s really them, their operator will be able to put you through to the right person. If not, they’ll appreciate your reporting the scam.

Be careful: some scammers try to install malware on your computer first that redirects any connection or search you make for XYZ bank to their own site. In at least one case (which wouldn’t be possible on most modern phones), someone told me the story of how he got taken in by calling the bank right after the scammer hung up. The bank confirmed everything—only, he later found out, the scammers had never actually hung up the phone. They just muted their end until they heard him dial the bank's number, and played him a recording of the phone ringing.

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Just to further what others are saying - and provide some info straight from the Social Security Administration - specific to the call you received as well!

Per a 1 April 2019 Advisory (emphasis mine)

FRAUD ADVISORY: IG Warns Public About Caller ID "Spoofing" of Social Security Fraud Hotline
Phone Number
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2019

The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning citizens about a caller-ID “spoofing” scheme misusing the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) Fraud Hotline phone number. The OIG has received recent reports of phone calls displaying the Fraud Hotline number on a caller-ID screen. This is a scam; OIG employees do not place outgoing calls from the Fraud Hotline 800 number. Citizens should not engage with these calls or provide personal information.

Callers may use a variety of false scenarios or threats to request personal information or payments, often by means of gift cards or prepaid debit cards. The caller may claim to be from a “legal department,” and they may state that one’s Social Security number (SSN) has been involved in fraudulent activity. They may also accuse citizens of committing crimes, and may threaten arrest by Federal marshals.

SSA and OIG employees do contact citizens by telephone for official purposes, and they may request the citizen confirm personal information over the phone. However, the calls do not appear on caller ID as the Fraud Hotline number of (800) 269-0271. Also, SSA and OIG employees will never threaten you for information or promise any type of official action in exchange for personal information or payment. In those cases, the call is fraudulent, and you should just hang up.

“This caller-ID spoofing scheme is the latest attempt to use Social Security and the OIG’s trusted name to mislead people into providing information or even money over the phone,” Inspector General Ennis said. “I encourage everyone to alert your family and friends about how common these scams are, and to be extremely cautious when speaking with unknown callers, even if you recognize the caller ID.”

Inspector General Ennis urges citizens not to provide any sensitive information, such as SSN or bank account number, over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it. You should also never wire money or add money to a prepaid debt card to pay for any official government service.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA or OIG, you should report that information to the OIG online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report or by calling (800) 269-0271, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time. You can also report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission through a new site specific to Social Security scams: https://identitytheft.gov/ssa.

So, they confirm that it's exceedingly rare that they call you directly (and even in such cases, the citizen is already made aware by the SSA that they'll be contacted...never cold-called). Also, they recommend that you call them if you're suspicious of any contact.

Also check out https://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/scam-awareness

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