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Thieves Target Electronic Social Security Payments

Posted on Jul 04, 2013

Our Massachusetts disability benefits lawyers have recently become aware of an increase in fraud cases involving electronic Social Security benefits payments. This important issue could affect many of our clients.

As of March, nearly all Social Security paper checks have been replaced by electronic bank deposits. This saves money for the Social Security Administration, but electronic disability payments may be at risk of being stolen. Thieves are stealing electronic payments by rerouting them into their own bank accounts or debit cards. According to the AARP, more than $28 million in benefit payments have been stolen since October 2011.

How does this happen?

There are two ways that electronic benefits are stolen. Most thefts occur after the thief is given personal information by the victim. The thief may pose as a representative from the victim’s bank or credit card company, or from the Social Security Administration. He asks for personal information such as the victims Social Security number, birthdate, or account number. He then uses that information to contact the bank and reroute payments.

The other way is through electronic hacking into online Social Security accounts.

Even a month of missed payments can be a major hardship for someone who relies on SSI or SSDI to make ends meet. A missed payment can mean an inability to pay for food, medical care, utilities, and housing. This means that disability recipients who do not get their checks could face a medical emergency or homelessness.

What can you do to protect your SSDI or SSI payment?

  • Never give out your Social Security number
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone
  • If you get a call from a bank or credit card company, ask them to provide the last four digits of your account number before you give any additional information.
  • Never agree to accept credit cards or prepaid debit cards that are in another person’s name
  • Never agree to send or transfer money to a person you don’t know
  • Contact your local Social Security Administration office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from the SSA who asks you to provide your Social Security number, bank account number, or other personal information.
  • If you believe you are a victim of Social Security payment fraud, report your suspicions to the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

The US Senate is concerned about the increase in Social Security payment thefts. Last month, the Special Committee on Aging formed a panel of disability advocates and theft victims. The panel will make recommendations to help stop these crimes and compensate the victims.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law