Richard L. Gregg
Picture this: You answer the phone, and an unfamiliar voice says you’ve won the lottery, even though you didn’t buy a ticket. To claim your winnings, you only need to provide your bank account and Social Security number. “It’s urgent!” the caller says, “I need the information right now, or you will forfeit your winnings.” There are multiple variations: The caller claims to be a long lost family member, an employee at your bank or even a staffer at a federal benefit agency.
It may sound too good to be true, and it is. All of these scenarios are attempts by criminals to take your money. While a phone call is the most common, these scams may also take the form of an email or even a text message. In recent months, there have been a number of news stories featuring Americans who have been scammed out of their money when they give out their personal information to strangers.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury, in partnership with the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs, has created a public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness of these scams and to help educate Americans on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. In the message, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue and VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould recommend the following to keep your money safe:
1. Never give out your Social Security number or bank account information to anyone unless you initiated the contact.
2. Watch your bank accounts regularly to ensure all the activity is yours.
And remember, government agencies will NEVER contact you by phone, email or text, to ask you to provide sensitive information. If you are contacted, call your local police immediately. Visit StopFraud.gov to learn more.
Richard L. Gregg is the Fiscal Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.