On the Fifth Annual Slam the Scam Day, Attorney General Bonta Warns Californians of Social Security-Related Scams

Thursday, March 7, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, in observation of the Fifth Annual Slam the Scam Day, issued a consumer alert warning Californians to beware of Social Security-related scams and other government imposter scams. In a government imposter scam, someone claims to be an official government employee, and may ask for personal information, demand payment, or make threats. These scams primarily use the phone, but scammers may also use email, text messages, social media, or U.S. postal mail. According to the FTC, in 2023, consumer loss from government imposter scams increased to more than $617 million. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta provides Californians with tips to avoid falling victim to these types of scams.

“Today and every day, I am dedicated to using every tool at my disposal to protect California consumers,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Social Security-related scams hold the top spot as the most common type of government imposter scam; I urge everyone to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement and to my office at oag.ca.gov/report.”

Protect Yourself from Social Security-Related Scams

Government imposter scams can take money from your bank account, steal your identity and passwords, seriously harm your credit score, and lead to other problems like a loss of security clearance for service members and others. Below are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to these scams:

  • Hang up the phone: If you suspect a scam call, immediately hang up or do not respond. The longer you stay on the line, the higher your chances of becoming a victim.
  • Protect your Social Security number (SSN): To protect your SSN, avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, and instead keep it at home in a safe place. Only provide your SSN when absolutely necessary – such as on tax forms or employment records – and if a business asks you for your SSN, see if there is another number that can be used instead.
  • Protect your online information and accounts with strong passwords: Protect yourself by using different, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Make sure that the passwords you use are at least eight characters, including a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Consider using a password manager to provide suggestions and store strong passwords.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links: Scammers try to steal your money, personal information, or passwords by getting you to click on links that are sent to you in texts, emails, or social media. Text messaging is particularly dangerous because you might in a hurry click on a link and begin entering a password, not realizing that the link was phony and your password is being recorded. Don’t click on suspicious links. 
  • Check your credit card bills and bank statements often: Look for unauthorized charges, withdrawals, or unexpected bills, and report irregular activity to your bank as soon as you see it. If you notice that a bill didn’t arrive on time, it may mean that someone has changed the contact information on your account in order to hide fraudulent charges. Don't share personal information: Be careful about what personal information you share, such as your address or financial information.
  • Take advantage of free annual credit reports: You are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three national credit bureaus: EquifaxExperian and TransUnion. Your credit history contains information from financial institutions, utilities, landlords, insurers, and others. By checking your credit reports at least once a year, you can identify signs of identity theft, as well errors in your report that could be raising the cost of your credit. Order your free annual credit reports by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-322-8228, or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Talk to friends and family: Always seek a second opinion from your friends and family if you suspect an interaction is a scam. 

As a rule of thumb, real government officials will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest or legal action in exchange for immediate payment.
  • Promise to increase your benefits or resolve an issue in exchange for a fee or transfer of funds to a protected account.
  • Ask for payment in the form of gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfer, Internet currency, or by mailing cash. 

Some scammers are sophisticated. They may offer to provide “documentation,” or “evidence,” or use the name of a real government official or agency to make you think that their calls are legitimate. If you are not sure, hang up, and go to the official website of the agency (which should be a .gov website) and call them directly. 

Attorney General Bonta is committed to safeguarding the assets and finances of all California consumers. As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Bonta highlighted ongoing efforts to protect consumers and urged reporting misconduct or violations of state consumer protection laws at oag.ca.gov/report.

For more information and resources on social-security related scams, visit our website at oag.ca.gov/consumers.

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