LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists thrive on fear, and the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed their illegal schemes, according to a release from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
The release noted that scammers are now using today’s financial uncertainty to trick Social Security beneficiaries into thinking their payments will be suspended unless they provide personal information to the scammer by phone, email or text.
The Social Security Office of the Inspector General has confirmed, however, that beneficiaries will continue to receive scheduled payments during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any letters, texts, emails or phone calls stating otherwise are a scam, the release said.
“The Social Security Administration will not suspend or discontinue your payments due to COVID-19,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge anyone who receives a scam request for your personal bank account information to hang up the phone immediately.”
Scam artists have sent letters to Social Security beneficiaries by U.S. Mail and stated that benefit payments will be canceled unless he or she contacts the phone number identified in the letter. Some of these letters may even include a reference number in order to suggest that the letter is legitimate. Upon calling the phone number provided, beneficiaries are asked to give personal information or to make a payment with gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash to ensure social security payments.
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips to protect Arkansans from con artists:
- Government benefits do not require up-front payment of money, and requests for payment by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, cash, or debit or credit cards are scams.
- Rely on information from well-known or government sources and websites that end in .gov. Examples include the Social Security Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Arkansas Department of Health.
- Beware of requests that ask for your personal information, credit card information, Social Security number or banking information.
- Check the URL link for a “lock” icon before you proceed to make sure that the website is a secure site.
- Look for non-personalized email greetings like “Dear Sir or Madam,” and delete emails that insist you act urgently or immediately.
- Consider contacting a friend, loved one, or financial professional before providing information or agreeing to any proposal from a possible governmental entity.
To report this scam to the Social Security Administration, contact its Fraud Hotline at 1-(800) 269-0271, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
The Attorney General’s Office created a page that links to state and federal government resource pages for COVID-19 at ArkansasAG.gov/COVID19. Contact the office with any concerns about scams at (800) 482-8982.
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