Social Security Inspector General Warns Public about Misleading Internet Websites that Appear to be Official Social Security Administration Site
Recently OIG has received complaints from Social Security applicants who believed that personal information they provided to the Social Security Administration had somehow been disclosed, without their permission, to claimant representative firms.
An Office of the Inspector General investigation revealed that instead, while the applicants believed they were visiting the Social Security Administration’s official website, they were instead visiting privately-owned websites designed so as to appear to be that of the Social Security Administration. As a result, some applicants provided personal information when the website operators later contacted them to offer representation.
Some of the misleading characteristics of these websites include: official-sounding website addresses; links which users could click on to (purportedly) apply for benefits; and the use of patriotic and/or governmental symbols, such as the American flag.
The Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General are concerned that some applicants who mistakenly visited these websites believed they were applying for benefits online with SSA. The Office of the Inspector General has taken action under Section 1140 of the Social Security Act to stop the owners of these and similar websites from misleading the public in this fashion.
“Any organization that uses misleading tactics such as these to victimize applicants for Social Security benefits will be dealt with swiftly, and to the full extent of the law,” said Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.
To date, the operators of two websites have been contacted and agreed to alter their sites to eliminate confusion. Nevertheless, Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue urges the public to exercise caution online, and to provide personal information only through the Social Security Administration’s official website, www.socialsecurity.gov.
Anyone with knowledge of misleading websites such as those described in this advisory or any suspicious activity involving Social Security programs should contact the Office of the Inspector
General’s Fraud Hotline at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig/hotline/ or by phone at 1-800-269-0271. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call the OIG TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.)
If a person has questions about Social Security benefits or programs, he or she should contact Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit Social Security’s official website at www.socialsecurity.gov. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security's TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)
As public servants, SSA employees are expected to maintain a high level of integrity when it comes to facilitating the business of the Social Security Administration. As such, SSA/OIG takes seriously any crimes involving SSA employees. For example, is an SSA employee selling Social Security Cards? Is an employee stealing checks from beneficiaries? If you believe an SSA employee is committing these or any other crime against the Social Security Administration, please contact the OIG Fraud Hotline.
Scams Involving the Impersonation of an SSA Employee
We sometimes receive reports where individuals have been contacted by someone pretending to be an SSA employee. The intent of this type of call may be to steal your identity and/or money from your bank accounts. The caller generally asks you for personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, your mother's maiden name, or your bank or financial account information.
The impersonator may state that "the SSA computers are down" or may refer to enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug program. The intent of this type of call may be to steal your identity and/or money from your bank accounts. You should not provide any of this information to these individuals.
It is possible that an SSA employee may contact you to follow-up on a previous application for SSA/Medicare Part D benefits or to follow-up on other business you initiated with SSA. If you are unsure as to the authenticity of someone who claims to be an SSA employee, please call SSA's toll-free number:
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