The Social Security Administration issued a warning today about an ongoing Office of the Inspector General (OIG) impersonation scheme. The scheme echoes a pattern where thieves pretend to be from government agencies, like those involving scammers posing as callers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
In the most recent scam, folks are reporting suspicious phone calls allegedly from the OIG. Specifically, the caller identifies as “Gale Stone” and states the person’s Social Security number (SSN) is at risk of being deactivated or deleted. The scammers are hoping that name sounds familiar: the Acting Inspector General of Social Security is Gale Stallworth Stone. It’s also worth noting that Social Security numbers don’t have an expiration date, and you don’t have to re-activate or confirm them for them to be valid.
While variations on the scam exist, typically the caller advises the victim to call a particular phone number to resolve the issue. Do not call the number or engage with the scammer (even if you think you can get the better of them). The better tack is just to hang up. You can also report the information to the OIG at 1.800.269.0271 or online.
Above all, the real Inspector General Stone urges you to be cautious and to avoid providing information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are sure who is asking.
The same rule applies to those alleged IRS phone calls. When in doubt, assume it’s a scam. If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call back using an official number (don’t just use the caller ID number on your phone since those can be spoofed). To reach IRS, call 1.800.829.1040. To contact Social Security, call 1.800.772.1213.
The IRS says that phone scams are still “a major threat to taxpayers.” In early 2018, phone scams held down the top spot on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported they have become aware of over 12,716 victims who have collectively paid over $63 million as a result of phone scams since October 2013.
Remember that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For more tips on protecting yourself from identity-theft-related tax fraud, click here.