How To Know If It’s Social Security Calling

Question: I recently got a phone call from someone saying they were from the Social Security Administration. They told me there was a problem and needed to verify my information. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I hung up? Will I get in trouble with Social Security for doing that?

Answer: Sometimes I feel like the only people who call me anymore are the scammers and people trying to sell me something. I get calls that sound like a real person, but are recordings that sound like “Hi, this is Emily and I am calling about your Vehicle Warranty,” or “Hello, don’t hang up, I am calling about your credit card and it is important.” Then the one that says “We are calling to verify your mailing address for your new Security System.” And now we get “This is Social Security and we are calling about a problem with your payment. We need to verify some information first.”

All of these calls are scams or trying to sell you something you don’t need or didn’t order. One of the best ways to handle this is simply hang up. But sometimes we don’t realize who we are talking to until 30 seconds or so into the phone calls.

My first advice is never say ‘Yes’. They often ask “Is it okay to tell you about this offer?” or “Would you like to hear more?” Try not to give them any information. Some of the calls tell you to press a number to be deleted from these calls. I almost think that just confirms that it is a real person. If you don’t want the calls, simply hang up. If you didn’t order the product, say “No!” and hang up.

I know that they sometimes sound nice and young and caring about you, but I would dispute their caring about anything but the sale.

You may want to donate to charities, and have probably donated in the past. My advice on this topic is donate to local charities, ones that are right here in our area, helping local people.

The farther away your money goes, the less impact you will see with the money you donate. When you are donating to charities that advertise on TV or send you lots of mail, some of what you give them is used to pay for that commercial or that mailing. If you give to national political organizations, it is harder to see the benefit. Donate to a local politician or political organization. Those donations can have a greater impact on your life.

Back to the phone calls.

When you hang up on the callers, we sometimes later think we should have taken the call. A Social Security Administration representative will never call you out of the blue. The SSA usually mail you information regarding your benefits, or you can also sign up for an emailed version of those mailings. If there is a problem or a question and you called them, you sometimes receive an appointment for a later date to speak with a SSA representative. In those cases, you will have an appointment time, a confirmed date and time that they will call. This phone appointment to talk with you about your benefits, is something you requested.

If you haven’t called or contacted SSA with a question or concern, the call you got from someone saying he or she is from SSA was most likely a scam call. But these callers are getting better and better at scaring us into action. They make it sound like if we don’t confirm our information our benefits will stop. This is not true. If SSA has a concern, you will receive mail from SSA first.

If you get one of these calls and hang up, and it was someone from SSA, he or she will mail you a letter about SSA concerns to follow up. If you want you can reach out to SSA to ask if was an employee of SSA who called you. Whenever a representative of SSA talks with anyone, there is a record of that contact. So if a rep reached out to you, it will show up in the SSA computers.

Contacting SSA can be done in a number of ways. The first is by going to any local SSA office. There are three in our area, Jamestown, 321 Hazeltine Ave., Olean 1618 W. State St., or Dunkirk 437 Main St. These locations are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4pm. On Wednesday all branches are open from 9 a.m. to noon.

You can also call these local offices; Jamestown (887) 319-3079, Olean (877) 319-5773, or Dunkirk (888) 862-2139. The hours are the same for calling as they are for going there. You can also call the national number at (800) 772-1213, and this National number is available for extended hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. This national number also some pre-recorded help-line information available 24 hours a day, but to speak to a representative you must call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

I understand how frustrating and sometimes scary these calls can be. I get them myself. Most of the time I simply hang up and grumble after about it. Sometimes I say “no, no, no, no, no,” over and over into the phone until I am disconnected. I have also heard people say they lay the phone on the counter and simply let the people talk. Other people screen all their calls through their answering machine. Find a way to handle these calls that makes you comfortable. If something happens that really scares you, call your local police or sheriff. Tell them what happened. Also let your family know it is happening.

I am hoping the next time your phone rings, it is a friend you are looking forward to talking to, as a matter of fact, why not call a friend you haven’t talked with in a while. They will enjoy hearing from someone who wants to talk and that they know. You know your friends are getting these same calls. Why not tie up your lines with friends and family who will be pleased to hear from you.

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or e-mail her at janells@lutheran-jamestown.org.