The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. The Social Security Administration (SSA) emphasized that it will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed.
The inspector general’s office said it has received reports that Social Security beneficiaries have received letters through the USPS mail stating their payments will be suspended or discontinued unless they call a phone number referenced in the letter.
The agency said scammers may then mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures.
As of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, local Social Security offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, however, Social Security employees continue to work.
The agency clarified that Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency wrote:
Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.
Social Security will never:
- threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee;
- promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
- require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card;
- demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem; or
- send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.
If you receive a letter, text, call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. We encourage you to report Social Security scams using our dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov. Please share this information with your friends and family, to help spread awareness about Social Security scams.