July 26, 2013

Protect Your Social Security Disability Benefits From Fraud

Ed Swierczek Photo

By Ed of Allsup

It’s challenging enough to qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits that you earned while you were able to work. Finally receiving those benefits and then having them stolen by a stranger, or worse—a trusted friend or family member—can be devastating.

The fact is, beneficiaries aren’t always able to handle their personal financial arrangements. In these instances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will appoint a relative, friend or other representative payee to handle financial transactions. While these custodians usually act in the best interest of the beneficiary, there are times when that is not the case.

If you or someone you love has experienced a misuse of benefits by a representative payee, you should contact the SSA Office of Inspector General (OIG) immediately using an online form to submit a report of fraud or abuse or call (800) 269-0271.

The OIG is dedicated to detecting and deterring fraud and abuse. Be sure to provide as much information as possible, including the beneficiary’s name and the representative payee’s name; the Social Security number of both individuals; the date of birth of both individuals; and some facts regarding the allegation, including how the fraud was committed and where it took place.

Preventing Identity Theft

With identify theft as one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, it’s important to keep a close eye on your financial affairs.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that, in 2012, government documents and/or benefits fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft, equaling 46 percent of complaints.

As of March 1, 2013, the SSA issues the majority of disability payments electronically. To protect yourself, the OIG recommends establishing a mySocial Security online account to prevent someone from opening an account in your name using stolen information. Set up an account here: www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, be sure to block electronic access to your information in SSA records at www.socialsecurity.gov/blockaccess.

In May 2013, the SSA put additional fraud prevention measures in place for the mySocial Security online portal, including fraud protection tools for online registration. Other actions include establishing an executive-level fraud deterrent workgroup. Next month, the agency will no longer allow users who have a block in place to change payment information using the Internet.

An important first step in protecting your information—and your benefits—is to regularly monitor all of your personal and financial accounts.

If you see suspicious activity, report it immediately to the appropriate agencies. Click here for more information from the OIG about what to do in case of identity theft.

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