Fake COLA: Phone scammers promise bogus bump in Social Security benefits

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Social Security check
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When the phone rings with someone claiming there’s a juicy boost in your monthly Social Security benefit coming, be very wary!

Read more: How to legitimately maximize your Social Security benefit

No, you aren’t due a 1.7% increase in Social Security

Scam artists are working the phones again, this time impersonating employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and promising people a sizeable cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

The scammers are asking people to confirm their name, date of birth, Social Security number, parents’ names and other personal information, all the while holding out the carrot of a supposed 1.7% increase in monthly benefits that they’re supposedly due.

USA Today reports that such info, if divulged, would allow criminals to change the routing on direct deposit of Social Security checks. It would also let them alter the addresses and telephone numbers associated with Social Security accounts.

That means the rightful recipients of those checks wouldn’t find out their money was being messed with until it was too late!

The scam calls appear to be originating from Los Angeles area code 323. However, it is possible the criminals are using phone spoofing technology to make that particular area code appear on caller IDs.

As always, anytime you get a suspicious call, your best bet is to hang up the phone and call the organization that was supposedly trying to contact you directly. If you do have legitimate business with them, they’ll be able to tell you over the phone.

You can also call the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or visit them online to report any suspected scams.

A real announcement about new COLA rates is coming

In reality, Reuters reports that the SSA will be out with new COLA numbers for 2018 in October.

Based on current inflation trends, the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League predicts the cost-of-living adjustment for 2018 will be at or near 2%.

If that proves true, it would would be a big jump from the .3% increase in monthly payments that Social Security recipients have been receiving this year. By the way, the .3% increase for 2017 translates to about $5 extra a month in the average Social Security check.

Think that’s small? 2016 saw no COLA at all because inflation was negligible when rates were being set in 2015.

The following chart from USInflationCalculator.com shows the steady growth of inflation rates over the past 30 months:

So how much would a potential 2% cost-of-living adjustment add up to in 2018?

According to the most recent SSA data, the average Social Security benefit was $1,360 per month as of December 2016. So if the Senior Citizens League is right and a 2% COLA is announced in October, that would mean an extra $27.20 in the average retiree’s pocket each month come 2018.

Read more: When’s the best time to take Social Security? Here’s how to find out …

Scam alert: Beware of the phony Social Security referendum

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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