Social Security Scams: How To Protect Report And Recover From Fraud
Our most recent Consumer Pulse revealed digital fraud has risen significantly in the last year. In fact, since March of 2020, reports of digital fraud have increased 73%. One popular scheme involves fraudsters impersonating Social Security Administration employees to try to trick you into revealing your valuable personal information or trying to get you to pay them for a made-up violation. They may threaten or demand immediate payment to avoid legal action. The SSA stated they received almost 700,000 allegations of Social Security scams carried out by calls, emails, text messages or mail. Below we explain how to avoid these scams, how to report them and what to do if you accidentally fall victim.
How To Report Disability Fraud
If you suspect someone of committing a fraudulent act, here are the steps to take to report disability fraud.
- First, contact the toll-free Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 269-0271.
- Explain in detail what type of fraudulent activity you suspect.
- Provide as much information as you can about the individual potentially committing fraud, such as their name, address, phone number, and birth date and Social Security number if you know them. The more information you supply, the quicker the investigation can get underway.
- Do not report anything that you are uncertain of there are penalties for reporting false information, so stick with the facts only.
- If youre not comfortable calling the SSA Fraud Hotline, you can fill out a fraud report form online, or mail it to:
Social Security Fraud Hotline
What Is The Cost Of Social Security Fraud To Us Taxpayers
Because people are often asked for their Social Security numbers to identify themselves in financial transactions, the numbers are a favorite target of identity thieves. Social Security numbers that have been obtained through theft or trickery can be used to obtain credit cards or other loans, open bank accounts, and even to apply for a job.
Criminals also use illegally obtained Social Security numbers to file false income tax returns and collect fraudulent refunds. The Internal Revenue Service uncovered $2.3 billion in tax fraud schemes in 2020.
The perpetrators of these frauds arent just small-time crooks but often large criminal enterprises with individuals at all stages of the scheme: those who steal the Social Security Numbers and other personal identifying information, those who file false returns with the Internal Revenue Service , those who facilitate obtaining the refunds, and the masterminds who promote the schemes, the U.S. Department of Justice says.
Individual taxpayers often discover that their Social Security number has been stolen only when they file their own tax returns for the year and receive a notice from the IRS that there appears to be a problem. If they are due a legitimate refund, then they can still receive it, but only after completing the necessary steps outlined by the IRS. Ultimately, U.S. taxpayers as a group are stuck with the bill for fraudulent refunds.
Examples Of Social Security Disability Fraud
Misuse of social security benefits can vary, but generally fall into the following four categories:
- False statements. Examples include someone stating there have no sources of income when in fact they do, claiming to be unemployed when theyre doing a job and being paid under the table, or claiming to be bedridden when in fact theyre perfectly mobile.
- Falsifying documents. Examples include using an altered Social Security card or altering medical documents.
- Concealing information. Examples include not reporting an improvement in a medical condition, employment status, or a beneficiarys death.
- Misuse of benefits by the payee. A payee is appointed by the SSA to ensure funds are used for the disabled beneficiaries only it is fraudulent for the payee to use it for themselves or others.
Social Security Fraud Misuse Or Impersonation
|The Social Security Administration investigates reports like these:|
|Or call 1-800-269-0271.|
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What To Do If You Lose Your Social Security Card
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- Your Social Security number can be valuable information for identity thieves
- Consider placing a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports if your Social Security card is lost
- If you know your Social Security number has been stolen, there are some additional steps you can take
Your Social Security number is a valuable piece of information to identity thieves. Its a key element of your identity and is also linked to taxes and credit information. And except in limited circumstances, it cant be changed. Thats why its so worrisome to have your card lost or stolen.
Here are some steps to take for a lost or stolen Social Security card:
1. Consider placing a fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit reports or locking them. With an initial fraud alert, potential lenders and creditors are encouraged to take additional steps to verify your identity, such as contacting you by phone, before extending new credit. A fraud alert lasts for one year and can be renewed. Fraud alerts are free. Contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus Equifax, Experian or TransUnion to request a fraud alert, and that bureau will notify the other two.
Options for locking your credit report may also be available from the three nationwide credit bureaus. Learn more about fraud alerts, security freezes and credit report locks.
You might also consider calling the Social Security Administration at 772-1213 to report the lost card.
Who Is Eligible For Disability Benefitsand Who Is Not
SSDI is available to any American over the age of 18 who suffers from a medical condition that is expected to keep them from working for a period of one year or longer, or that is expected to lead to their death. SSDI is provided by the federal government through the Social Security Administration.
SSDI coverage is intended to last until the beneficiary recovers from his or her illness or injury, but many beneficiaries suffer from chronic or incurable conditions and only exit the SSDI rolls when they die. The SSDI application process includes extensive vetting, and requires documentation of medical diagnoses.
SSI is available to disabled persons of any age who document that they have less than $2,000 in assets, and that their income is nonexistent or insufficient .
Disabilities covered under SSDI and SSI encompass a wide range of conditions and symptoms.
In the case of SSDI, they include injuries that impair workers’ ability to do physical labor such as heavy lifting or standing for extended periods, and also extends to many less visible conditions: Impairment of hearing, vision or ability to concentrate, for instance, can arise from a variety of physical and mental illnesses, as side effects of medications, or as a consequence of brain injuries, tumors or strokes.
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What Is Disability Fraud
Disability fraud is a crime in which someone collects disability benefit payments they’re not entitled to. It can take several forms, including:
- Misrepresenting or falsifying a diagnosis or symptoms on an application for disability benefits so as to improperly claim eligibility for disability payments.
- Accepting benefits while also receiving unreported payments through workers’ compensation or a private long-term disability insurance program.
- Continuing to accept disability benefit payments after recovering from an illness or an injury that made working impossible.
- Under certain circumstances, working at one or more paying jobs while collecting disability payments.
Note that SSDI recipients may legitimately work at jobs that pay less than their monthly SSDI benefit amount, as long as they report their income to the SSA. Some SSDI beneficiaries may also be allowed to stay in the program while working full time on a trial basis so as to determine whether or not they can handle the demands of a new job.
Recipients of disability benefits aren’t the only ones who can commit disability fraud. When caretakers are entrusted to manage the needs of a person with disabilities , the caretakers also may abuse the system, in instances such as the following:
How Does Social Security Identity Theft Happen
There are several ways an SSN can end up with a thief. Some involve physical theft, and others can take the digital route. To what extent are SSNs at risk? Notably, there was the Equifax breach of 2017, which exposed some 147 million SSNs. Yet just because an SSN has been potentially exposed does not mean that an identity crime has been committed with it.
So, lets start with the basics: how do SSNs get stolen or exposed?
Thats quite the list. Broadly speaking, the examples above give good reasons for keeping your SSN as private and secure as possible. With that, its helpful to know that there are only a handful of situations where your SSN is required for legitimate purposes, which can help you can make decisions about how and when to give it out. The list of required cases is relatively short, such as:
- When applying for credit or a loan.
- Transactions that require IRS notification, like working with investment firms, real estate purchases, auto purchases, etc.
- Registering with a business as a full-time or contract employee .
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Millions Possibly Billions Of Dollars Every Year
Social Security fraud statistics can be difficult to pin down. Some are grouped inside a larger category that the Social Security Administration calls improper payments, which includes everything from innocent mistakes to willful fraud. The SSA estimates that it made about $7.9 billion worth of improper payments during the 2019 fiscal year.
Social Security-related fraud can also take other forms, such as identity theft using stolen Social Security numbers and scams involving bogus phone calls and emails purporting to be from the SSA. Collectively, these frauds cost the U.S. government and individual taxpayers millions, if not billions, of dollars every year.
Defining Social Security Fraud
Just as improper payments do not always constitute Social Security fraud, Social Security fraud does not always result in improper payments. In fact, there are many forms of Social Security fraud that generally stem from an intent to lie or misrepresent information to the Social Security Administration. The SSA recognizes the following forms of fraud:
- Concealing information or making false statements
- Misuse of benefits by a representative payee
- Buying or selling Social Security numbers or cards
- Criminal behavior or violation of the standards of conduct by an SSA employee
- Impersonation of an SSA employee
- Bribery of an SSA employee
- Misuse of SSA grant funds or contracts
- Using Social Security numbers to commit terrorist attacks
Some of these activities are more common than others. However, the first is far and away the most common form of Social Security fraud. Many people try to qualify for Social Security or increase their benefits by withholding information or reporting false information related to their age, health, work history, and income. If the SSA does not catch the error, this fraud could result in improper payments.
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Social Security Administration Oig
If you are a Social Security Administration employee, or an employee of an SSA contractor or grantee, and you suspect fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement in SSA programs or operations, or reprisal against you for reporting wrongdoing, you may report that to the Social Security Fraud Hotline. You may find more whistleblower information at .
The SSA Office of the Inspector General investigates many types of Social Security-related fraud, including
Social Security-related scams making false statements or facilitating fraud in applying for Social Security benefitsconcealing work activity while receiving disability benefitsreceiving Social Security benefits for a child not under the recipients carereceiving and using a deceased persons Social Security benefitsconcealing a marriage or assets while receiving Supplemental Security Incomeresiding overseas while receiving Supplemental Security Incomemisusing benefits when acting as a representative payeeSSA employee or contract and procurement fraud
The following matters are generally NOT investigated by the SSA OIG:
911 emergenciesMedicare or Medicaid fraud Lost or stolen Social Security cards Identity theft that is not related to Social Security benefits or programs Misuse of Social Security numbers on tax returns Direct Express® account fraud
How To Report Social Security Fraud
Once you detect fraudulent activity, knowing how to report Social Security fraud can not only help undo the effects of the fraudulent activity, but it can also help protect your information in the future.
If you notice or feel that you are the victim of Social Security fraud, contact the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General . You can contact the OIG’s Social Security fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or file a report online at: .
When you file the report, provide as much information as possible. If you have any contact information for scammers who contacted you directly and attempted to commit identity theft like names, addresses or phone numbers be sure to turn this over to the OIG.
As a disclaimer, know that the OIG cant provide you with any information gathered as a result of their investigation. This is due to federal regulations that prevent law enforcement records from being shared.
Note that the steps listed above are specific only to the SSA. As outlined above, you may still need to make other phone calls to report identity theft to agencies like the IRS, depending on the type of theft that took place.
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Reporting Disability Fraud Can You Remain Anonymous
If you are reporting disability fraud, you have the option to remain anonymous during the reporting process. However, keep in mind that this may limit the Social Security Administrations ability to investigate your allegations, since the office will not be able to follow up with you for additional information.
To report fraud, waste, or abuse online, fill out this form on the Social Security website.
To report it via mail, send your report to:
Social Security Fraud Hotline
Social Security Scams Against Consumers
Individual consumers can also be the victims of Social Security-related frauds. Particularly common are imposter scams, where a caller will claim to be from the SSA. The goal often is to obtain the victims Social Security number and other personal information for identity theft purposes. But in other cases, the caller will demand money from the victimfor example, threatening to cut off their Social Security benefits if they dont comply.
Similar imposter scams are carried out through email, text message, or regular mail. Through the second quarter of 2021, the Federal Trade Commission collected 28,944 reports of imposter scams involving Social Security, with total losses of about $12 million. And, of course, untold numbers of scam victims never file reports, often out of embarrassment.
Telephone Problems Affecting Customer Service
We apologize for any problems you may have when you call us as we modernize our telephone system.
Unfortunately, you may get a busy signal or unintentionally disconnected from your call while you are speaking with or are on hold for a representative.
Please know that we are diligently working with our telephone system providers to fix these issues.
What to do if you are unable to reach us on the phone:
- If you are disconnected, please do not call back right away. When customers repeatedly call us back, it can make the problem worse.
- Consider calling when our National 800 Number may be less busy:
- Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time
- Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time
- Wednesday through Friday
- Waits are generally shorter later in the month
Occasionally, our representatives may not be able to call you at your scheduled appointment time. If that happens, please wait for a representative to call you as close to your appointment time as possible.
IMPORTANT REMINDER ABOUT SCAMS: Our representatives will never call you and promise a benefit increase in exchange for money or threaten you with arrest or legal action because you dont agree to pay us money immediately.
- Our most popular services are available online at www.ssa.gov/onlineservices. Take advantage of these secure and convenient online services without the need to speak with a representative by phone or in an office.
Identifying Social Security Disability Fraud
Despite evidence that shows disability fraud happens far less frequently than expected, Disability Experts of Florida believes any fraud is too much fraud. Before you report disability fraud, however, there are three things you should consider:
- You must know the reason why someone has been approved for benefits. If youre not sure, research will need to be conducted to uncover the truth before accusations are made.
- Be certain that you fully comprehend the persons situation, as working a regular job may complicate their condition more than you know. For example, the need for frequent medication throughout the day could leave them unable to hold down a job, or perhaps they need to make trips to the hospital on a weekly or even daily basis which conflicts with their job.
- Be aware that even if you dont see a physical disability and impairment, an individual may still suffer from an invisible disability such as mental or psychological disorders these are not often easy to identify and you may not understand how they do, in fact, interrupt the persons daily activities.
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