Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul has until Nov. 1 to answer several questions from the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging about what the administration is doing to protect older adults, including those with cognitive impairments, from Social Security scams.

Over the past year, the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline has received “a significant increase” in the number of calls related to such scams, in which con artists impersonate Social Security staff members to try to obtain unsuspecting older adults’ Social Security numbers, according to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission also announced that reported losses from Social Security scams over the past year had eclipsed reported losses from the Internal Revenue Service scam in its peak year, she said.

“Although the Social Security Administration is taking steps to raise public awareness and limit scammers’ ability to continue perpetuating this scam, I am very concerned that the response to this scam has been lagging,” she wrote in an Oct. 15 letter to Saul.

Collins asked Saul to provide the following information:

  • When did the Social Security Administration first begin its public awareness campaign?
  • What steps has the agency taken to prevent its telephone number from being “spoofed” so that older adults wrongly think someone from the administration is calling them, based on their caller ID?
  • What specific outreach has the SSA done to people who have cognitive impairments, such as those who receive benefits through a representative payee?
  • What steps has the administration taken to raise awareness of such scams among other adults living in rural areas, who may not have access to computers and high-speed internet?
  • How has the SSA publicized the existence of its new voice verification feature as a way to provide additional security for members of the public who request a call back from the agency?
  • What information about the scam is visible to members of the public who visit a field office?
  • What steps is the agency taking to ensure adequate staffing to limit scams’ effects on its frontline operations and service to the public?
  • Has the SSA encountered any barriers in its efforts to raise public awareness and disrupt scammers’ attempts to continue perpetuating the scam? If so, what, if any, additional legislative authority is needed to address these barriers?