NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A nationwide hoax is targeting seniors by asking for their Social Security number and promising a $5,000 payment depending on when they were born.|
The Social Security Administration's Inspector General office put out a fraud alert after receiving several complaints about the scam in the last month.
A printed flyer tells people born before 1928 and who are African-American to write to a victim's group in Washington, D.C. and include their personal information including Social Security number, so they can receive an application for $5,000 they are due under the "slave reparation act."
The flyer, which has been posted in churches, community bulletin boards and left on people's doorsteps, is entirely false, said Rena Jones, public affairs specialist with the Office of the Inspector General in Baltimore.
"We were alarmed because when someone has your identifying information," they can make charges to your credit card, open loans, and commit other crimes, Jones said. Authorities are unsure who is responsible for the hoax, and their investigation continues.
Click here to read about other types of financial scams against the elderly.
Scams in which criminals try to steal Social Security numbers aren't new. Other cons involve advertisements telling new parents to pay a fee to apply for a Social Security number for their newborn child.
"Fill out this card and get a Social Security number for your child and send us $10. This is completely false," Jones said. Applying for a Social Security number with the Social Security Administration is free.
In 1999, the Social Security Administration's fraud hotline received about 30,000 complaints of misuse of Social Security numbers. And that number is up from 1998 when there were more than 11,000 complaints associated with stolen Social Security numbers.
What to do if someone gets their hands on your Social Security #
In October 1998, Congress passed the Identity Theft Act, which makes it a federal crime to knowingly use someone else's identity.
Do you smell a scam?
If you're ever asked for your Social Security number and you don't trust the source, don't give out your number, experts say. Meantime, if you see a flyer asking for you to send your Social Security number to an address in return for a payment, "Throw it in the trash. It's a hoax," Jones said.
Click here if you'd like to report an incidence of fraud
If you'd like to report an incidence of Social Security fraud, contact the Office of the Inspecter General (www.ssa.gov/oig) or call the fraud hotline at: 1-800-269-0271.
--Staff Writer Jennifer Karchmer covers news about Social Security for
CNNfn.com. Click here to send her email.