How can I tell if a call from a federal agency is legitimate?

scam victims lost about $9.5 billion.

I’ve been getting scam calls about SSI suspending my SSN number so I thought the was relevant and needed to be out there

In general, if you get an unsolicited phone call asking for detailed financial or personal information, be suspicious and don’t share any information. “The S.S.A. will not contact you out of the blue,” the F.T.C. said.

Don’t automatically trust the phone number on your caller ID screen. Criminals may use “spoofing” technology to make the call appear to be from a government number.

“We cannot trust the caller ID any longer,” said Ms. Daffan of the F.T.C.

Just last month, Gail S. Ennis, the inspector general of Social Security, warned of fake calls that appeared on caller ID to be from the office’s fraud hotline (1-800-269-0271). While employees of both the inspector general’s office and Social Security may contact people “for official purposes,” and may request that citizens confirm personal information over the phone, the calls will not appear on caller ID as the fraud hotline number, the advisory said, and federal employees will never threaten people for information.

“This is a scam; O.I.G. employees do not place outgoing calls from the fraud hotline 800 number,” the advisory said.

The best thing to do is hang up, said Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support at AARP Fraud Watch Network, which helps consumers who are worried about such calls.



If you’re unsure whether the call was a fake, call the agency directly — using a phone number you’ve checked independently, not one given to you by the caller. The Social Security Administration’s main number is 1-800-772-1213.

You should also report fraudulent calls. You can report them to the inspector general by calling the hotline number or going online.

You also can report it to the F.T.C. on a complaint website, identitytheft.gov/ssa, dedicated to Social Security scams.

What if I revealed my Social Security number to a caller?

Visit IdentityTheft.gov, which uses a question-and-answer format to help you protect yourself from identity theft. Steps include putting a freeze on your credit reports to prevent someone from opening new bank accounts or credit cards with your information. At a minimum, you should put a fraud alert on your credit reports, and check them regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

How should I advise an older relative who receives fraudulent calls?

People of all ages are receiving Social Security scam calls, the F.T.C. said.

But Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist and an associate professor at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, said older adults were particularly attractive targets for fraud schemes, in part because they often have access to accumulated wealth.

Older adults also exhibit behaviors that may put them at risk for phone fraud, she said. In a recent study of 935 older adults that she co-wrote, more than three-fourths of the participants reported answering the telephone whenever it rang, even if the call was from an unfamiliar number. Many also said they listened to telemarketing calls and struggled with ending unsolicited calls.

The study suggested that falling prey to a telephone scam, even in people who appear to be functioning normally, may be an early warning sign of later cognitive problems or Alzheimer’s, Dr. Boyle said. That doesn’t mean that everyone who is duped will develop dementia. But it may be wise, she said, to monitor the person’s behavior for potential problems, or seek professional screening.

AARP Fraud Watch offers a free helpline for people worried about phone scams (1-877-908-3360) as well as online tips, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, offers resources for helping protect older people from financial exploitation.