By Tom Breiter, Integra Capital Advisors
As we approach the filing deadline this tax season, scams involving your Social Security Number are on the rise. According to Investment News, a publication sent to financial professionals, these scams are taking several forms1.
One of the most common is a phone call or email where the caller claims there has been “suspicious activity” and threatens to cut off your benefits if you don’t provide them personal information - like your Social Security Number. These are known as “phishing attempts”. The Social Security Administration will NEVER call you or send an email if there is activity or a problem with your account. They will always communicate by U.S Mail to your address of record. Do not respond to any emails or phone calls about your Social Security benefits - just click delete, or hang up.
The scammers have also started to correspond via the mail in an attempt to look more legitimate. They may create letterhead that looks similar to the Social Security Administration’s. If you receive a letter examine it closely. Look for poor grammar and misspelled words. Many scammers are foreigners working from abroad, or perhaps from here inside the United States. If you have any doubt, call Social Security using a number from their website online (www.SSA.gov). Do not call a number from the correspondence! If the letter is in fact a scam, you will be responding right into the scammers hands.
For clients of Integra Capital Advisors, we will be happy to review the correspondence or email you received to see if we can determine its legitimacy. While we are not experts on this, we do have significant experience in helping our clients avoid scams. Call us right away at 941-778-1900 if your believe you have received a phishing attempt by mail or email.
Phishing activity picks up this time of year because there is something else at play - your tax refund. With your Social Security Number a scammer can attempt to intercept your refund by filing a false tax return. When you go to file your legitimate return you may receive a message that a return has already been filed. If this occurs you need to file IRS Form 14039, which is an Identity Theft Affidavit. This document is filed in paper form along with a paper copy of your federal return the old-fashioned way.
You will also receive a notification by mail if IRS or Social Security online access has been created in your name, or if your existing access has been disabled. If this occurs, contact the IRS or Social Security Administration immediately.
Above all, always think before providing your Social Security Number to anyone. Are you sure the person you are talking to is legitimate? Never email your personal identifying information unless a secure encrypted email system is being employed by the professional you are working with. And again, always call agencies at a number you obtain form a known source, like the agency’s website, not the number contained in an email or piece of mail unless you are absolutely sure the correspondence is legitimate. Finally, ask for help if you’re not sure what to do, by talking with your financial advisor, call us here at Integra Capital, or ask a family member.