Trader Beware: Avoiding Social Security Impersonation Scams

If you are in the trading business, I know you already try your best to keep your business and personal information separate. However, from time to time, you might still need to give out your social security number.

Before you do, just know that social security scams are rampant. The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a warning recently citing the rise in SSA impersonation schemes.

How SSA Impersonation Schemes Work

Social security scams can draw you in through multiple channels. Here are a few ways scammers can get to you:

  • Email: Fraudsters may email you claiming to be from the Social Security office. A few years ago, fraudsters even managed to create a legitimate-looking email address: no-reply@ssa.gov.
  • Phone Calls: For sophisticated scammers with social engineering skills, the phone is still the favorite way to get in touch with you. They will try to convince you that something is wrong with your social security account. They even use local area codes to add authenticity to their schemes.
  • Websites: Scammers can set up websites that lure you into giving your sensitive financial information. The websites can look like legitimate portals for services.

When the scammers contact you, they will generally try to create panic. An email might mention that someone has opened an account in your name, or your bank account has been frozen by the SSA.

Once you give your information out of panic, scammers can use it to drain your bank accounts or trading accounts.

Alternatively, scammers might play on your FOMO (fear of missing out), telling you they can get you a bigger Social Security check – for a hefty price. There are strategies for increasing your check, but you should be initiating such a discussion with a reputable financial advisor, not responding to a stranger.

How to Protect Yourself

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself against SSA impersonation:

Look Before You Click

Use filters in your email accounts to separate out unknown email addresses. Modern email services already do some of the work. But you can use additional filters. This will also help keep your trading computer safe from viruses and malware.

The tips for detecting phishing emails are the same regardless of the scam: verify the sender, check for a reasonable URL, and look for poor spelling or grammar.

Let It Go to Voicemail

If possible, avoid answering phone calls from unknown numbers. Instead, let them leave a message.

If you must answer, always be suspicious of anybody claiming to be from a government agency like SSA. Generally, government agencies use snail mail. They only contact you by phone after you have asked a question or requested help.

When you pick up the phone, if you think it’s a scammer, hang up immediately. Don’t press a button to stop getting calls. It doesn’t stop the calls, it just lets them know they reached a real person.

Watch What You Say

Never give out personal information to an unsolicited phone call even if the caller threatens to take legal action. Politely ask them to send you legal documents for further discussion.

Also, you should be careful about saying “yes” to any question. The scammer might record your voice and then use it to gain access to your bank account, trading account, or credit cards.

Be Proactive

If you receive a fraudulent SSA email or call, report it to the SSA. It’ll help prevent future occurrences.

You can submit a report online through https://oig.ssa.gov/report. Alternatively, call the Social Security’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 (weekdays).

Also, you can forward suspicious emails to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team at phishing-report@us-cert.gov.

Conclusion

We teach our trading students to be prepared with a plan and to control their emotions while sitting at their trading computers. This keeps them safe from over-reacting to the vagaries of the market.

Similarly, traders should be prepared with a plan and ready to control their emotions and reflex reactions in the face of an incoming Social Security scam attempt. This approach will keep you safe from fraudsters.

There are more trading computer tips like this in our buyers guide. Check out our “How To Buy a Trading Computer” e-book.

We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250.

Photo by Jake Oates on Unsplash.