The Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday that cyber thieves and scam artists have managed to steal over $6 million in benefit payments from retirees and other Social Security beneficiaries.
My Social Security, a program created in 2012 to provide better customer service to Social Service recipients–and allow beneficiaries to create direct deposit accounts for their payments–is the source of this fraud.
Since 2013, beneficiaries have also been able to edit or change their direct deposit information, giving thieves an opportunity to exploit the direct deposit feature by manipulating or tricking beneficiaries into releasing the personal information that would allow these thieves to redirect the payments to themselves.
Though the Social Security Administration has prevented millions of dollars from being routed to the wrong accounts, about $10.9 million in misrouted payments still made it into the hands of thieves–and only $4.7 million was recovered.
That leaves $6.2 million in the pockets of scammers, and $6.2 million torn away from the beneficiaries to which it belongs.
It is of vital importance that every Social Security beneficiary take precautions to protect their personal information and prevent this kind of fraud before it happens.
Be extremely vigilant about who may have access to your personal information and to whom you are giving that information. With many identity thieves going to great lengths to impersonate government employees or bureaus by phone, mail, and email, be sure that you can authenticate the identity of anyone contacting you for this information BEFORE you share it. All a scammer needs to edit your direct deposit information is your Social Security number, your birth date, the names of your family members, and your financial information.
If you suspect you’ve been contacted by someone looking obtain your personal information related to your Social Security, please contact the Social Security Administration via their toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. You will be asked to provide:
- The caller’s “name”
- The caller’s telephone number
- The time and date of the call
- The information requested by the caller
- And any other information that may identify the caller or clarify the content of the call