How Can I Tell if a Letter or Email From Social Security is Real?

Social Security numbers serve as the key to unlocking identity theft, making them a highly sought-after target for scammers. One prevalent tactic used by fraudsters is posing as representatives from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in order to deceive individuals into divulging their personal information. The SSA has reported that thousands of Americans fall victim to these scams on a daily basis, resulting in the theft of benefits and sensitive personal data.

This type of scam, known as a government impostor scam, involves criminals impersonating government officials to manipulate individuals into providing money or confidential information that can be used for identity theft. Scammers may employ various methods such as sending official-looking letters, emails, texts, or social media messages to create the illusion of legitimacy. These communications often bear the insignia of the SSA or SSA OIG, complete with official letterhead and government terminology. It is a scam!

Will Social Security Send You a Letter?

Letters are a key way that Social Security stays in touch with the public. They help explain Social Security's decisions, inform you of your rights and responsibilities, and let you know what to do if you don't agree with their decisions. Sometimes, Social Security will send letters asking you to give them a call or stop by the office, or to provide some information or documents. 

You'll also get a notice from Social Security to keep you updated on your claim, benefit status, or benefit amount. If there are any changes to your benefit amount or eligibility, Social Security will send you a notice. For example, if you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and your living situation, income, or resources change, you'll get a notice whenever your benefit amount changes.

How Can You Tell if a Letter From Social Security is Real?

A real Social Security letter will contain the following key elements: a header that always includes the agency name, typically the name of the Social Security program, and the type of notice being issued. ⁤⁤For instance, it may read as follows: Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income, Notice of Change in Payment. ⁤⁤Additionally, the letter will provide Social Security's website link, toll-free telephone number, and the address of your local field office. ⁤

⁤Moreover, Social Security notifications typically include the purpose of the correspondence, any actions or decisions being taken, the rationale behind those decisions, any adjustments to your benefit status or payment amount along with the effective date of the change, any necessary steps you need to take, guidance on what to do if you disagree with the decision, and contact information for reaching out to them. 

⁤Unfortunately, scammers are now producing counterfeit letters that closely resemble authentic Social Security correspondence. ⁤⁤As a result, unsuspecting individuals are falling prey to fraudulent schemes.

How Do I know if a Letter From Social Security is a Scam?

For years, scammers have been pretending to be government agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA). They usually say that if you don't pay up or hand over personal info, a government agency will hunt you down or you'll lose out on a federal benefit you deserve. These scammers will try every trick in the book - calling you, sending mail, sliding into your social media DMs, and even emailing you - all to get you to fork over cash or share personal details that they can use to steal your identity.

Here are five signs that you might be dealing with a scammer instead of a legit Social Security Administration rep:
  • Threats for immediate payment: If someone claiming to be from the SSA threatens to suspend your Social Security number, warns of arrest, or demands immediate payment, it's definitely a scam.
  • Payment requested in unusual ways: The SSA will never ask for payment in the form of gift cards, cash, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. Scammers prefer these methods because they're hard to trace.
  • Requests for personal information: The real SSA will never reach out to ask for your Social Security number, bank info, or credit card number. Be wary of anyone who does.
  • Unsolicited contact about your account: The SSA typically won't contact you out of the blue. If there's an issue with your account, you'll likely receive a letter or notification online. If they do call, it's probably because you've already been in touch with them.
  • Promises of benefits in exchange for action: Scammers might try to entice you with promises of increased benefits, but these offers are just as fake as their threats. Stay alert and don't fall for it!
Beware of scammers pretending to be federal government agents. If you get a letter from Social Security and you're not sure if it's legit, call 1-800-772-1213 to verify. You can also create an account at My Social Security to easily check your benefits and notices whenever you want.

An Example of a Fake Social Security Letter

An Example of a Fake Social Security Letter

Upon first glance, the letter above may appear to be from the Social Security Administration, but it is actually fake. The way it is written is not typical: "March 03rd, 2023." You would never see it written that way, which is a red flag for a scam. Additionally, later in the letter, it instructs you to "plead yourself." These small details are things scammers hope you will overlook. 

Furthermore, the phone number at the bottom of the letter is not associated with anything familiar to you. Scammers want you to focus on the outrageous content of the letter or email, rather than the subtle red flags. Their goal is for you to become so upset that you are unable to think clearly.

Do not be fooled by a Social Security letter threatening to suspend your Social Security Number due to fraudulent activity. Stay vigilant and trust your instincts when it comes to suspicious correspondence.

An Example of a Fake Social Security Email

An Example of a Fake Social Security Email

The email above, sent on March 3, 2023 to a WFMY News2 viewer, was a scam. It claimed her Social Security number would be suspended due to illegal activity in Texas. The email looked official, but the "from address" was a Gmail account, not from the Social Security Administration. Remember, the SSA will only email from @ssa.gov. If you receive a suspicious email, don't click on any links or open attachments. Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and to the OIG's fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov.
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