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Forget The IRS Scam, Criminals Are Targeting Social Security Numbers Next

If you thought you were prepared for phone scams, like the ones trying to trick you into sending money to somone claiming to be from the IRS, brace yourself.

Cuyahoga County’s Consumer Affairs Department is warning of a new scam where strangers threaten to suspend your Social Security number for illegal activity.

Criminals are trying to obtain Social Security numbers and money with threats of prosecution or freezing funds if you don’t cooperate. 

Government officials rarely call and never make threats, said Cuyahoga County Director of Consumer Affairs Sheryl Harris.

“Because guess what? Arrests are surprises,” said Harris. “People just show up to arrest you. They don't chit chat about, ‘I'm coming to get you tomorrow.’ Also, you would never have your accounts seized by a government agency unless you had had really significant interactions about whatever this behavior was.”

The Federal Trade Commission in June reported receiving nearly 73,000 complaints about this scam in the past year, with consumers losing close to $17 million.

Consumer fraud investigators from all over the country came to Cleveland this week to collaborate and train on ways to catch criminals trying to steal your money.

Members of the military and their families are highly vulnerable according to 9th Coast Guard Assistant Attorney Steve Lynch. Many military personnel who are scammed fear they could lose their security clearance due to negative marks on their credit report, he says. so they go along with the scammers demands, in case it's real.

“If they're validated or verified that can be the basis for removal of the clearance,” Lynch said. “Which can lead to someone not just losing the position they've got or that they need the clearance for it can actually lead under some circumstances to them being administratively discharged from the military."

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports as many as 8,000 military personnel are discharged for financial issues. The top scams targeting veterans involve medical billing, counterfeit money orders and identity theft, according to Lynch.

If you think you have been a victim of a consumer crime, the Federal Trade Commission, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and other specialized government programs such as Protect Your Move may be able to help.

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