Social Security Administration Issues Warning About Tax Season Phone Call Scams

It’s tax season, so you know what that means. No, not a big tax refund (we wish). It means an uptick in phone call scams from the “IRS.”

In 2017, 3,200 have reported a phone scam after losing nearly $210,000 consecutively. That number skyrocketed in 2018, to more than 35,000 people reporting a scam, after losing $10 million. Yikes.

“Phone scams continue,” warns Special Agent in Charge for the Department of Treasury’s IRS Criminal Investigation Section Tara Sullivan. “That’s been an issue for the past couple years. You’ll get a robocall demanding money and be threatened with arrest. Very rarely do we call. It’s usually a letter and we’ll never demand a payment. Don’t engage the caller. Just hang up.”

There are many variations of Social Security scams, but a lot of these calls will tell you that there’s been some suspicious activity on your account, that your number has been stolen or even that your account has been suspended. The caller will probably even tell you to confirm your social security number or reactivate it, or that your bank account has been hacked, and that to be safe you should put the money on a gift card and give them the codes.

That’s one red flag right there—the Social Security Administration will never (ever) tell you to put money on gift cards—or to wire money or send immediate cash, or basically anything that has to do with giving them your money.

Scammers will try anything to get your personal information, such as a credit or bank account number. If this call involves you giving them access to any of these things, this is 100% a scam and you should hang up immediately.

Social Security also will never threaten you with arrest or deportation. Many times, these calls tell you that the consequence is one of these, but rest assured that no one is coming to break down your door with handcuffs.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: The real Social Security Administration number is 1-800-772-1213—but this doesn’t mean that if you get a call from this number, it ISN’T a scam, as these hackers are putting that number in the caller ID. So the Administration urges anyone who’s worried or unsure about what the caller says to hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real Social Security Administration.

Additionally, with all the scams happening lately, the real agency urging anyone who receives these calls to report it. Call the toll-free hotline at 800-269-0271 to do so. To file a complaint online, visit the Office of the Inspector General or the Federal Trade Commission.

These calls can be alarming, and even if you’ve heard about scams, they’re pretty realistic these days so you might start second-guessing yourself. But don’t—trust your gut. If it sounds sketchy, it probably is!

To learn more about what to look for in these scams and what to do when it happens to you, check out this video below.

Have you ever been the victim of a phone scam? What did you do in that situation?