Misleading Advertising and Scams

Misleading Advertising and Scams

All over the country people receive mailings or emails that use “Social Security” or “Medicare in emblems or words to give the impression that they are somehow affiliated with the government. Sometimes they offer Social Security services for a fee, but these very same services can be received directly from Social Security offices for free. Services offered can be getting a corrected card showing a brides married name, replacing a lost card, getting a social security number for a child, or getting a social security statement.

One tactic by some marketers is to offer an update on your benefits. Then they ask you for personal information and sell that information. Others may suggest that the Social Security system is in poor financial shape and suggest a donation to the advertiser. It is against the law to give the impression that Social Security endorses the mailing or other types of communication. It is also against the law to charge for services that Social Security gives for free. But the laws don’t do much good if a person loses part of their life’s savings to a scammer who uses your personal data to get at your money.

A scam that is especially scary to elderly people is when a caller or voicemail says your benefits, or your social security number, are suspended because of suspicious activity. If you receive such a solicitation, STOP. Think. Don’t Panic. Call your son or daughter, or your local police or a trusted friend before you make any response. Don’t panic just because a letter or email or telephone solicitation has come in.

Social Security does not threaten people or promise an increase in benefits conditioned on your giving personal information. If that happens, the call is not legitimate. Hang up. The key is not to be tricked into a response due to the emotions caused by the communication. If you think that a letter or email is from a government office, such as social security, don’t call the number on the letter or email. Look up the government number in the phone book. OK. I’m dating myself. You can look up the nearest Social Security office number online. That way you know you are reaching a trusted government office and the person you are talking to really works for Social Security, or Medicare, or other government agency.

One easy way to contact Social Security is to contact them at https://www.socialsecurity.gov. Or call toll free at 800-772-1213. There is also a fraud hotline at the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration at 800-269-0271.

Scams claiming problems with the Internal Revenue Service are even more common than with Social Security or Medicare. The callers are often very intimidating, threatening jail if money is not sent immediately. Hang up on such callers.

Although this is repeating myself, if you get a threatening call that scares you, don’t get flustered. Call your kids or the police or other trusted person you know who won’t be feeling the emotions the caller raised and who can give you calm careful advice on what to do.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.

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