The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Social Security Administration (SSA) testified before Congress on steps they are taking to prevent direct deposit fraud. As of June 1, 2013, the Inspector General’s office has received more than 37,000 reports of SS payments being redirected to other accounts without authorization from the beneficiaries. The OIG continues to receive 50 such reports a day.
According to the OIG, they have begun receiving reports of direct deposit fraud committed through SSA’s “my Social Security” online portal. In January 2013, the SSA expanded “my Social Security” to allow people to change their address of record and their direct deposit information. Since January, more than 22,000 potentially fraudulent “my Social Security” accounts have been opened.
What typically happens is that an elderly Social Security beneficiary receives a letter or phone call announcing that the beneficiary won a large amount of money and requesting personal and financial information. Within days of providing that information, an unauthorized change is made to the beneficiary’s Social Security direct deposit information and instead of being deposited in the beneficiary’s account, the Social Security payment ends up in the identity thief’s account. With so many of our senior citizens living solely on Social Security income, this creates a severe hardship for them.
Between September 2011 and June 2012, OIG auditors identified more than 23,000 beneficiaries who reported they did not receive about 25,700 Social Security payments worth about $28.3 million. The OIG, SSA, and Treasury Department are working together to stop direct deposit fraud, but they also urge beneficiaries, especially elderly ones, to take “basic preventive steps to protect their personal information from improper use” by being aware of phishing and lottery schemes and by not giving out personal information to unknown callers.
The OIG stresses that the best way to keep someone from opening a fraudulent “my Social Security” account in your name is by opening a legitimate account yourself at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. You don’t have to be receiving Social Security payments to open an account. Through the account, individuals can view their earnings record and get estimates of their monthly benefit when they retire.
As always, you can check out a suspicious phone call or letter with your BBB.
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