Social Security disability recipients targeted in 'imposter phishing' scheme

Orlando residents 19 miles apart say they got the same call

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida residents who receive Social Security disability benefits are being targeted by imposters who claim their accounts have been hacked and  their SSN assets have been frozen.

Janice Robinson, of Orlando, a cancer survivor, told News 6 she received two calls on the same day with identical recorded messages.

“The calls were saying there had been suspicious or illegal activity with my Social Security number and they were cancelling my SSN,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the calls were very intimidating because as a former elementary school teaching assistant on disability, she depends on that monthly check.

“The little bit of assets I have are all I have,” she said. “I’m disabled, I’m on Social Security and that’s all I have.”

Just 19 miles away, Joyce Schmidt, also on permanent disability, received the same intimidating calls.

“I was scared,” she said. “I thought somebody had taken my identity to be honest.”

The calls appeared to be from New Jersey and Virginia, but in reality, they could be coming from anywhere in the world.

"It was from the same (New Jersey) number, 8:43 in the morning and 4:40 in the afternoon same day,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said she “immediately called the Social Security office” and a spokesperson assured her the account and her Social Security number had not been compromised.

Schmidt said she has not received another call since.

Acting Inspector General Gale Stallworth Stone issued a statement on March 2 saying in part, “This phishing scheme is targeting unsuspecting persons for the purpose of Social Security benefit theft or identity theft.”

She warned citizens to be cautious and to avoid providing personal information, such as their SSN or bank account numbers, to unknown persons over the phone or internet.

“You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party, and that your information, will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.

If a person has questions about any communication — be it email, letter, text or phone call — that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, they are asked to either contact the Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify the communication's legitimacy.  

Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.

Tips to beat the impostors:

  • Don’t give the caller your information. Never give out or confirm sensitive information – like your bank account, credit card or Social Security number – unless you know who you’re dealing with. If someone has contacted you, you can’t be sure who they are.
  •  Don’t trust a name or number. Con artists use official-sounding names to make you trust them. To make their call seem legitimate, scammers use internet technology to spoof their area code – so although it may seem they are calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Check with the Social Security Administration. The SSA has a warning about these scams and suggests you contact them directly at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.