New confidence scam targets Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits are always hard-won by past contributions and often hard-won in the tough claims process for disability. This is why beneficiaries and their families must be exceptionally vigilant for attempts to defraud or steal Social Security payments from them.

A new confidence scheme has come to the attention of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which has issued some tips on how to avoid it. The scheme involves impostor agents calling senior citizens for private information, purportedly to authorize a cost-of-living increase on future benefits.

Scammers can use personal information to contact real SSA agents and change payment details like direct deposit information to steal benefits. Although there are no definitive data on how many seniors have been taken in by this con, the acting Social Security inspector general reported calls from all over the country in response.

A separate con targeted seniors receiving Social Security benefits by making calls insisting that a warrant had been issued for a recipient's arrest in connection with benefit overpayments. The victim is then offered relief if she or he purchases prepaid debit cards or other non-traceable assets.

The SSA does occasionally overpay benefits and sends alerts about the need for repayment. However, this is often handled by reducing future payments to compensate. "If an unknown person pressures you on the phone into providing payments or making purchases for odd reasons," suggests the acting inspector general, "don't think twice about hanging up."

If a benefits recipient wants to be sure that SSA is trying to contact him or her, call the agency back at their listed local number or the national toll-free number, 800 772 1213. This is the first line of defense against the theft of precious Social Security benefits.

Source: CBS MoneyWatch, "Seniors beware: New con targets Social Security checks," Kathy Kristof, July 31, 2017

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