Fighting scams in which the SSA is being impersonated in an attempt to steal identity or defraud victims has become a significant workload burden for the agency, an IG report has said.
The SSA is one of the agencies most often impersonated—along with the IRS—in such scams, which commonly claim there is some problem with an account or benefits and which may threaten arrest or legal action and demand immediate payment.
In some cases scammers use spoofing software to make it appear that calls or emails are coming from official phone numbers or accounts, and some even use the names of actual agency employees.
The SSA and its IG have conducted active public awareness campaigns warning of such scams and has deployed programs to prevent spoofing, but in fiscal 2019, the SSA’s 800-number staff handled more than 850,000 scam-related calls while the IG received about 65,000 scam-related allegations just from SSA staff.
Field offices whose numbers are spoofed in such incidents have experienced 10-fold increases in calls from the public afterward.
“Time spent responding to scam-related inquiries and making fraud referrals deflected staff from completing their normal workloads. SSA estimated it spent over 100 work-years in FY 2019 on these and other scam-related activities at a cost of $8.4 million,” a report said.
With each 100 work years, the SSA could process 6,000 initial disability claims, 43,000 retirement claims or 270,000 Social Security number card requests, it said.
SSA staff interviewed by the IG also said that the public “was more likely to question authentic telephone calls from agency staff and preferred in-office interviews because they did not trust speaking with someone over the telephone.”