Scammers threaten Social Security recipients with prison

The one thing I will say in favor of Life in Quarantine is it does free up a lot of time.

When you don’t have too many places to go, you have a lot of open evenings and weekends. The past few months have been a great time to catch up on all the hobbies and projects I’ve been meaning to get around to.

Like, waxing the hardwood floors.

Reading all of the books I bought, but never touched after.

Money laundering.

Learning Italian.

Solo scherzando! My isolation hobbies don’t actually include any felonies. But, it would seem a criminal investigator at the United States Federal Government thinks they do—or at least, someone impersonating one:

This mildly threatening message is brought to you by my very own voicemail inbox.

Now, I can’t really speak for “my family,” which is also apparently being investigated (I can’t blame anyone for turning a suspicious eye toward those shifty individuals), but unless I’m entering the “committing financial crimes in one’s sleep” phase of quarantine, I’m not guilty of hiding any ill-gotten gains. I’d probably remember doing something like that if I did.

And if THAT was the case, I DEFINITELY wouldn’t be blasting my criminal warrant notice all over the internet.

There. Now that my name is sufficiently cleared…

This is just real life example of what awaits you in your voicemail box when you choose not to answer the phone for callers you don’t recognize. Or, if the caller spoofed a number in your area code, the robocall you would have received in real time if you had picked up the phone.

Admittedly, this is pretty tame version of the “you’ve committed a crime, so we’re going to need you to call back and give us all of your Social Security information” scam. They get much more colorful than simply accusing someone of money laundering. My personal favorite is the one where a “Social Security agent” calls you and tells you that your Social Security number has been linked to a rental agreement for an abandoned vehicle filled with cocaine and blood. We’ve gotta give that person at least a few points for style and flourish.

Whether the caller mentions your Social Security number, being attached to the Social Security Administration, or simply just accuses you of committing a crime without any specific nod to your Social Security, the end goal of these phishing calls is the same. Scam callers are getting a list of names and phone numbers, casting a wide net, and hoping they can scare someone enough to get them to call back. At that point, the caller will inevitably ask for your Social Security number along with as much identifying information as they can.

Once they have it, they will use it to steal your identity. If they can get your banking information out of you, they’ll skip right to the chase and help themselves directly to your bank accounts.

Lately, the setup for these scams have evolved to reflect the new pandemic-anxious environment we’re all living in. Scammers have taken advantage of those living in isolation, expecting calls from contract tracers, and looking for resources to stay safe during the pandemic by adapting their pitches to be more COVID-related.

But that doesn’t mean they’ve let go of their tried-and-true methods. Even at a time like this, nothing makes people more anxious and likely to pick up the phone than being accused of committing a federal crime.

To this I can only reiterate that you KNOW whether or not you’ve done something to get on the wrong side of the law. I mean, come on, money laundering? That’s not just something you do on accident while waiting for your toast to pop on a Tuesday morning.

If you aren’t hiding millions of dollars in offshore accounts or playing your local slots multiple times a week to clean your drug money (don’t get any funny ideas—I listen a LOT of true crime podcasts), it’s pretty safe to say you shouldn’t be taking any calls like this seriously.

And if that isn’t enough to make you feel better? I can’t stress enough that no law enforcement agency OR representative from the Social Security Administration is ever going to call you casually on the phone. That’s just not how it works. If you’re being accused of any severe wrongdoing, believe they’ll send someone to your house. At the very least, you’ll get a very serious-looking letter in the mail or something.

But a sloppy informal robot call? Not even a chance.

And bear in mind the reason the feds and the Social Security Administration can send you a letter is they know where you live already. These agencies would never need to call you on the phone and ask you for your name, your address, your Social Security Number, or any other identifying information. They have it.

So, as you’re sitting at home bored out of your skull waiting for someone—ANYONE—to call and provide you with some kind of social entertainment in quarantine right now, just remember to resist the urge to pick up for numbers you don’t know.

And if they leave you a voicemail as spooky as this one? Don’t be afraid to share it with us so we can have a good laugh.

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