Social Security Beneficiaries warned about identity thieves taking disability benefits

Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration published a “fraud advisory,” warning beneficiaries that it has learned of a number identity theft schemes that try to illegally divert Social Security benefits, including Social Security disability benefits.  Apparently, scammers have been obtaining personal information from beneficiaries to open online “my Social Security” accounts—and thereby moving benefit deposits into their own accounts.

“This should in no way discourage people from using the SSA’s ‘my Social Security’ feature,” the agency emphasized in its advisory, “which enables the public to view their earnings history and estimated benefits, and allows beneficiaries to obtain a host of services online; in fact[,] establishing your account eliminates the risk of a new account being opened by an identity thief.”

Some of the ways identity thieves have been getting the personal information include pretending to be government officials or posing as lottery or prize administrators—and requesting private information that can then be used to open a the accounts.  These tactics have also been used by identity thieves to steal tax refunds, illegally purchase homes, and open fraudulent credit cards.

The SSA provides four specific recommendations: “(1) never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contact; (2) never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person’s name; (3) never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person; [and] (4) always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.”

An individual who thinks that he or she may have been scammed should call, toll free, 1-800-772-1213.  Additionally, if he or she discovers that personal information has been stolen and used for non-Social Security purposes, the theft should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

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