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Social Security

Phishing scheme sent by e-mail targets Social Security recipients.

Published Nov. 25, 2006


Phish Bait:   Social Security recipients.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

Wednesday, November 5, 2006 Mark Lassiter, Press Officer For Immediate Release


Social Security Announces 3.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2007

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 53 million Americans will increase 3.3 percent in 2007, the Social Security Administration announced today.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year's increase in the CPI-W was 3.3 percent.

The 3.3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 49 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2007. Increased payments to more than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 29.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $97,500 from $94,200. Of the estimated 163 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2007, about 11 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum in 2007.

NOTE: We now need you to update your personal information. If this is not completed by November 11, 2006, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely

To confirm your records click here:

[Link disabled]

# # #
SSA 440 Altmeyer Bldg. 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235

Origins:   In November 2006, Social Security recipients were targeted by an online phishing scam directed at them. Those running the fraud took the text of an 18 October 2006 Social Security press release announcing a 3.3 percent cost of living increase being added to existing benefits and inserted a clickable link to a fraudulent site plus this bit of text intended to lure the unsuspecting into the trap: "NOTE: We now need you to update your personal information. If this is not completed by November 11, 2006, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely."

Those who took the bait by clicking the false link were transported to a site that looked like the real Social Security site. Once there, they were asked to register for passwords and confirm their identities by providing personal information such as their Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information.

On 7 November 2006, the Social Security Administration issued this press release about the scam:

Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, and Patrick O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General of Social Security, issued a warning today about a new email scam that has surfaced recently.

The Agency has received several reports of an email message being circulated with the subject "Cost-of-Living for 2007 update" and purporting to be from the Social Security Administration. The message provides information about the 3.3 percent benefit increase for 2007 and contains the following "NOTE: We now need you to update your personal information. If this is not completed by November 11, 2006, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely." The reader is then directed to a website designed to look like Social Security’s Internet website.

"I am outraged that someone would target an unsuspecting public in this manner," said Commissioner Barnhart. "I have asked the Inspector General to use all the resources at his command to find and prosecute whoever is perpetrating this fraud."

Once directed to the phony website, the individual is asked to register for a password and to confirm their identity by providing personal information such as the individual’s Social Security number, bank account information and credit card information.

Inspector General O’Carroll recommends people always take precautions when giving out personal information. "You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the Internet or by telephone unless you are extremely confident of the source to whom you are providing the information," O’Carroll said.

To report receipt of this email message or other suspicious activity to Social Security’s Office of Inspector General, please call the OIG Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the OIG TTY number at 1-866-501-2101). A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available online at OIG’s website www.socialsecurity.gov/oig.

Last updated:   25 November 2006

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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