FTC alert: social security numbers can’t be suspended

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a new variation on government impostor scam—this time claiming your Social Security number has been suspended. A caller claims to be protecting you from a scam, all the while actually trying to lure you into one.

The scam

A professional-sounding caller informs you that your Social Security number has been suspended. They claim it was used in connection to fraud or some other criminal activity and now has been blocked. To “reactivate” your number, you need to call a certain number. When you call, the person on the line (who is part of the scam) will ask you to share personal information as part of the “reactivation” process.

In other variations on this scam the caller might tell you your Social Security number was used to apply for credit cards and you’re at risk of losing your benefits. Or perhaps that your bank account is about to be seized so you need to withdraw the funds with the caller’s help.

The scammers use the details that are shared—including your Social Security number—to steal your identity or funds from your bank accounts.

How to protect yourself

First, know that the Social Security Administration will never, ever, call and ask for your Social Security number (after all, they already should know it!). They’ll also never ask you to pay anything and no one will ever threaten your benefits.

The FTC also has the following tips:

  • Never give out or confirm personal information over the phone, via email or on a website until you’ve checked out whoever is asking you for it.
  • Do not trust a name, phone number, or email address just because it seems to be connected with the government. Con artists use official-sounding names and may fake caller ID or email address information to make you trust them. Besides, the government normally contacts people by postal mail.
  • Contact government agencies directly, using telephone numbers and website addresses you know to be legitimate.

If someone has tried to steal your personal information by pretending to be from the government, report it to the FTC.


Updated 12/17/18 to include new details about variations on this scam.

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids.
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