Since October 2013, IRS phone scams have cost around 14,700 people more than $72 million in wire transfers, gift cards, and prepaid debit cards. The standard operating procedure: threatening immediate arrest by law enforcement unless the person pays — and quickly.
Historically, IRS scams have been the most common phone tactic used by scammers. But in the first six months of 2019, scammers are favoring a new method which involves getting victims’ Social Security information.
According to FTC complaint data, as well as data from background check provider BeenVerified, Social Security scam reports have increased by 23 times in the first six months of the year.
This problem is new and growing. BeenVerified’s data show that in 2018, Social Security scam calls made up only 1.5% of total spam call comments and IRS and tax scams made up 6.8%. But this year, Social Security shot up to 9.5% of complaints as IRS scams fell to 1.7%.
FTC data bears this out as well. Over the past year and a half, FTC reports for Social Security scam calls have ballooned, with over 76,000 in a 12-month period, with losses coming to $19 million. This is worse than the worst year of IRS scams, which recorded $17 million in scams, according to the agency in 2016.
In April, the FTC said that $6.7 million in reported losses were recorded in the previous two months, with the scam hitting all age groups. Like the IRS scam, people pay in gift cards, but other forms like bitcoin and feeding cash into bitcoin ATMs have been another method in getting anonymous cash to scammers.
The tactics are somewhat similar to the IRS scam. Scammers often try to scare consumers into paying quickly using made-up lawsuits, quoting badge numbers and using official language.
An example complaint from the background check service: “This message is from the legal department of the Social Security Administration. My federal badge ID is SSA 456. The purpose of this call is regarding an enforcement action, which has been executed by the U.S. Treasury against your Social Security number.”
BeenVerified’s data highlighted another tactic: luring consumers with prizes and free offers like cruises, hotels, gift cards, and iPhones.