Social Security fraud puts millions of beneficiaries at risk, and now the fraudsters have a new tool in their arsenal. A growing number of victims of Social Security fraud are falling prey to scammers using the latest weapons in the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence, or AI.
AI has many valid uses and applications, it’s true. But sadly, any good tool can be put to nefarious purposes, as this recent US News article attests. In it, reporter Rachel Hartman examined the landscape of Social Security fraud and artificial intelligence, and she comes to a sobering conclusion: not only are the risks of fraud increasing, but a large majority of Social Security beneficiaries are completely unaware that the danger of fraud involving AI even exists.
If you or someone you love is on Social Security, be on the alert to these new scammer tricks.
Social Security Fraud Aided by AI is Increasing
As she begins her US News article, Hartman gives a blunt warning: AI-driven fraud is on the rise, and that includes Social Security scams.
In an increasingly digital world, thieves are adapting by using artificial intelligence to gather personal information and make their schemes appear more legitimate through the use of digital tools.
“Among Social Security recipients,” Hartman explains, “75 percent are not aware of AI-powered scams that target them, according to the findings from a Social Security fraud awareness study by Atticus law firm released in September 2023, which surveyed 1,000 Americans with an average age of 60. Nearly 1 in 5 beneficiaries surveyed said they don’t feel confident in their ability to recognize AI-driven Social Security scams.”
Social Security Fraud “Faster and Easier” with AI
The authorities, thankfully, are already taking action. The Social Security Administration recognizes the threat of AI, and a taskforce has been recently launched by the Office of the Inspector General to investigate ways to stem the scam.
“The OIG understands that criminals will use AI to make fraudulent schemes easier and faster to execute, the deceptions more credible and realistic, and the fraud more profitable,” Inspector General Gail Ennis writes. “The OIG is in the early stages of understanding how criminals will leverage AI to commit fraud against SSA.”
If you or someone you know currently receives Social Security, it’s important that you understand the risks so you can keep your identity and finances safe. The following guidelines from Hartman should help.
Social Security Fraud Can Start with an AI-Generated Phone Call
What if the voice you’re hearing on the phone isn’t a human at all, but a robot? This is becoming increasingly common, as criminals use AI to mimic conversations through robocalls and chatbots. They can even make the messages sound like they are coming from official government representatives.
“These automated systems trick retirees into disclosing sensitive personal information or even making fraudulent payments by using voice synthesis and natural language processing,” says Joshua Spencer, founder of FortaTech Security, a cybersecurity advisory firm in Dallas.
Social Security Fraud and Phony Websites
These scams aren’t just happening over the phone, either. Websites can be part of this scheme, too. “Fraudsters may create an AI-generated video of the commissioner of the Social Security Administration or the U.S. president in which they announce a new Social Security benefit and encourage a potential victim to sign up by following a link on the video,” says Nir Kshetri, a professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and co-chair of a university-wide AI workgroup.
The link will then take a victim to a fraudulent website, which will ask them for important personal details, like their Social Security number. When the victim enters their information, it becomes accessible to all kinds of bad actors. “Criminals can use the information to reroute the victim’s monthly Social Security benefits to an unauthorized account controlled by the criminal,” Kshetri says.
Suspect Social Security Fraud? Call a Trusted Source for Help
Emails from an unfamiliar source are an instant red flag. Same with texts; you don’t need to respond immediately to strange or suspicious messages, from any source. Spencer says, “When receiving a suspicious call, hang up, check the call’s legitimacy with the relevant authority, and report any fraud attempts right away.”
For instance, Hartman writes, “if someone reaches out claiming to be from your local Social Security office, you can first end the conversation, then find the number for the office that is near you. Call the Social Security office yourself to explain what happened. You can also ask a trusted source, such as a spouse or friend, for help deciphering the message.”
Important Tips to Guard Against Social Security Fraud
Hartman encourages anyone concerned about privacy to set up a My Social Security account online at SSA.gov/myaccount. “Then you can indicate that the bank account to receive your check cannot be changed unless you do it in person at an SSA office,” says Steven J.J. Weisman, an attorney and scam expert, and counsel to Margolis Bloom & D’Agostino in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Other techniques to stay safe, according to the Atticus law firm, include:
- Check and verify that a website is authentic.
- Avoid sharing personal details on social media.
- Use strong passwords for online accounts.
- Only share personal information with verified individuals or organizations.
Social Security will Never Call, Email or Text!
Another way to stay savvy is to recognize how some of these organizations and institutions operate. For example, if you receive a call that claims to be from the Social Security Administration, take a step back and think: would they really call me? That’s just not how they do things!
“The Social Security Administration will not initiate any contact with you by email, text message or phone call,” Weisman says. “Anyone purporting to be a Social Security representative asking for such information is a scammer.”
Even if your phone identifies a caller, always proceed with caution, and don’t trust caller ID. “Even if your caller ID indicates that the call is from the SSA, it is a simple matter for a scammer to manipulate your caller ID to make the call appear to come from whomever and whatever number they wish,” Weisman says.
Social Security Fraud: Stay Informed About Digital Risks
Hartman writes, “In the past, thieves may have stolen paychecks from mailboxes, cashed them and pocketed the funds. These days, crooks are using digital tools to trick seniors into revealing personal information. As technology advances, new schemes will develop.”
Proceeding with caution and knowing the risks can go a long way to keeping you and your information safe. Keep as up to date as you can, so you can stay one step ahead!
Spencer’s words close the article: “Staying informed and cautious is key to protecting retirement benefits from AI-driven fraud schemes.”
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(originally reported at https://money.usnews.com)