ELIZABETH, NJ - County and Federal officials / agencies are alerting residents to a pair of phone scams that are circulating throughout the country, one involving fraud executed over the phone, with the other occurring online.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a warning about a caller who poses as an employee in order to extract social security numbers and other personal information. The wave of fraudulent phone calls surfaced earlier this summer. It involves a caller who claims to be a Social Security employee, and asks the victim to verify all of their personal information including their name, date of birth, Social Security number and parents’ names.

Sometimes the caller claims to need the information to process a cost of living increase for the victim.

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According to the SSA, when its employees make contact by phone it is mainly for customer service purposes, not to request personal information. Social Security employees may ask for confirmation of personal information in rare instances. Residents can easily verify if the call is legitimate by contacting the Social Security customer service office toll free at 800-772-1213. Residents using TTY can call 800-325-0778.

Residents can also use their cell phones, or Caller ID on their land lines, to screen numbers that are unfamiliar.

Suspected Social Security fraud can be reported to the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration at 800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov/report.

“Residents who receive a call like this or any other suspicious call from someone who claims to be a Social Security employee should report the caller to the Social Security Administration,” said Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Bruce H. Bergen, who added, "There is one simple way to guard against becoming a victim: never give out personal information, unless the caller’s identity and place of work can be verified. Suspicious emails, letters and text messages should also be reported promptly.”

Employer ID Number (EIN) Scam

Union County Surrogate James LaCorte is cautioning residents to avoid online companies that charge fees of up to $250 to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

“An EIN must be ordered directly from the Internal Revenue Service, and there is no fee,” said LaCorte. “I am issuing this warning because it has come to my attention that there are some services advertising on line that they will acquire EIN numbers for you. Some of these unscrupulous operations are charging as much as $250 for this ‘service,’ which the IRS provides for free.”

LaCorte urged residents to be vigilant when ordering an EIN online.

“When you look up EIN online, the responses that include a small ‘Ad’ box are businesses, and you will be charged a fee,” said LaCorte. “If you go into one of those sites, you will see a fee attached to the submission with the application, which is another indication that it is a business and not the IRS. Take your time in analyzing each website and make certain that when you apply it is directly with the IRS.”

Residents who are applying for an EIN online must visit the official IRS website located at irs.gov, and go to the page titled, “Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online.”

The full web address for the EIN page is: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online.

LaCorte further encouraged residents to inform themselves on the estate process.

“On the Surrogate’s web site under ‘Surrogate Brochures’ you will find a useful brochure on Gathering and Distributing the Assets of the Estate,” he said. “It will explain about EIN numbers, L-8’s & L-9’s, Tax Waivers and information to connect with the State of New Jersey Treasurer and Taxation Division for important information regarding filing taxes and inheritance tax.” To download the brochure, visit ucnj.org/surrogate/surrogates-brochures.

For more information, or to reach the Union County Surrogate's office, visit online ucnj.org/surrogate or call 908-527-4280.

Reporting Fraud of Any Kind

To report other types of fraud in Union County, residents can use the Union County Office of Consumer Affairs 24/7 online reporting service at ucnj.org/public-safety or call 908-654-9840 during regular business hours.

To help protect themselves against property and mortgage scams, property owners can sign up for an alert system at propertyfraudalert.com. More information about this service is available by visiting ucnj.org/county-clerk, or call the County Clerk at 908-527-4787. For general information on protecting against fraud, especially scams targeting seniors, visit FightingFraud.nj.gov.