AUSTIN — A man posing as someone from the federal government tried to get our personal information over the phone.
He said he wanted to verify our social security number and warned us about a possible identity theft. We knew the social security administration would never make a call like this. So, we called back.
“Your case is registered out of the State of Texas. My name is Sean Marshall,” the caller said, claiming to be an agent from the Social Security Administration.
The Social Security Administration does not employ "agents." The investigators fall under the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Types of jobs listed on the OIG website include criminal investigators, auditors, technology specialists, attorneys, program analysts and management analysts.
“Can you go ahead and verify your date of birth? Also, you need to verify your social,” the caller said.
We refused to give anything other than our name.
“Well, if you cannot verify, then how can I pull out your information?” the caller asked.
The call sounded as if it was taking place at a call center. Background chatter could be heard when the caller asked for our information.
“I just pulled up the Social Security website and they said they would never ask for our social security over the phone,” said Jennifer Wiggins, assistant news director at KVUE.
“If you think so, then you can hang up this call because this case is an ongoing investigation going on. You can contact your local police department about this case where we will process the legal charges,” the caller threatened.
“What is the crime?” Wiggins asked.
“It is against the law of the U.S. Treasury,” the caller said.
We asked him why the Social Security Administration would call us about investigations from other agencies.
“The U.S Treasury and the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Department are included in this,” the caller said.
DEA stands for Drug Enforcement Administration.
“So, I’m being investigated by the Treasury, Social Security Office and USDA?” Wiggins asked, changing one of the federal agencies he mentioned.
“Yes, correct,” the caller said, not catching the change.
We explained if there are criminal charges pending, we need to verify we are speaking with a federal agent or officer. He refused to give us a call back number.
“If you hang up this call there is no call back number. You can talk to your lawyer and face the legal charges,” the caller said.
We ended the call and emailed the Social Security Administration.
Sara Schultz-Lackey, SSA Dallas Regional Public Affairs officer, sent us this statement:
“Err on the side of caution—SSA will never threaten an individual with arrest, decrease in benefits, ‘frozen’ benefits, or other adverse action. SSA will not call simply to verify information when individuals have no ongoing business such as filing a claim; when in doubt individuals should hang up without engaging the caller. Generally, SSA communicates through mail- and again, to provide information or when the individual has ongoing business. If persons need to verify a call, call SSA’s 1-800 number. If individuals are threatened, questioned, or if they receive a call and have any reason to question it, hang up immediately."
If a person receives a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, they should report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online here.
Schultz-Lackey added examples of other similar claims:
"One misuses the SSA national customer service phone number. SSA has received numerous reports of questionable phone calls displaying SSA’s 1-800 number on a caller-ID screen. People should not engage with those calls or provide any personal information. These reports indicate the calls display the 1-800-772-1213, SSA’s national customer service number, as the incoming number on caller ID. People who have accepted the calls said the caller identifies as an SSA employee. In some cases, the caller states that SSA does not have all of the person’s personal information, such as their Social Security number (SSN), on file. Individuals who do not have ongoing business with SSA should hang up.
Other malicious callers claim SSA needs additional information so the agency can increase the person’s benefit payment, or that SSA will terminate the person’s benefits if they do not confirm their information. This appears to be a widespread issue, as reports have come from across the country. SSA employees will never threaten you for information or promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent, and individuals should just hang up. To verify a call is genuine, call SSA’s national number- 1-800-772-1213.
In another case, an automated recording states the person’s Social Security number (SSN) “has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity,” and the person should contact a provided phone number immediately to resolve the issue. The call concludes by stating if the person does not contact the provided phone number, the person’s assets will be frozen until the alleged issue is resolved. Individuals should not respond.
In another case, a caller claims to be from “SSA headquarters” or ‘an agent’ and waits for the person to provide personal information, such as an SSN, address, and date of birth. Individuals should immediately hang up."