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Social Security Administration sounds alarm over spike in scamming attempts

The Social Security Administration is sounding the alarm over a spike in reported scam attempts, with figures showing a surge during the pandemic.

“I’m deeply troubled that crooks are still deceiving Americans,” Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul said Wednesday on a call with reporters. “Our programs require the public to interact with us, and we cannot afford to have fraud affect that communication or the public’s trust in us.”

The agency received more than 718,000 reports of telephone scams in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, totaling almost $45 million in losses. That's up from 478,000 in the previous year.

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Fraudulent calls during the pandemic, when millions of Americans have been homebound, went from less than 6,000 in April to more than 100,000 in September.

Since Oct. 1, there have been more than 300,000 reports of scams, up more than 60 percent compared with this point in fiscal 2019.

The most common scams, Saul said, involve callers who claim to represent credit card companies, businesses and the Social Security Administration in an attempt to steal an individual’s personal information and money. Social Security, he added, have been the most common type of government imposter schemes reported to the agency and the Federal Trade Commission in the past year.

“The isolation and the fear are really key elements of this,” said Gail Ennis, inspector general for the agency.