On National Slam the Scam Day, Attorney General Bonta Warns Californians Against Social Security-Related Scams

Thursday, March 9, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — On National Slam the Scam Day, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert warning Californians to beware of social security-related scams and other government imposter scams. Government imposter scams occur when a person claims to be a government employee to obtain a victim’s personal information or demand payment from them. This can occur through various forms of communication including phone calls, text messages, email, social media, or mail. Last year alone, consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud. In light of increased consumer losses in recent years, Slam the Scam Day seeks to raise awareness on government imposter scams targeting Americans nationwide. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta provides Californians with tips to avoid falling victim to these types of scams.

“The rise of social-security related scams continues to be a pervasive issue stripping hardworking Californians of their assets and finances,” said Attorney General Bonta. “On National Slam the Scam Day — and every day — we’re raising awareness and reminding California consumers to be on the lookout for fraudsters seeking to harm them. 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 seriously harm your credit and security clearance. 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: 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.
  • 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: Equifax, Experian 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.

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; or
  • Attempt to earn your trust by providing fake “documentation,” false “evidence,” or the name of a real government official. 

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. Additionally, Attorney General Bonta this week issued a consumer alert reminding California military service members, veterans and families about their consumer protections under California law. 

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

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