The Social Security Administration (SSA) has replaced paper checks for Social Security Disability benefits with direct deposit into recipients' bank accounts. It is far less expensive for the SSA to transfer money electronically. It is also safer for people receiving monthly benefits, as thieves can no longer reach into mailboxes and steal checks.
How Thieves Steal Your SSD Benefits
However, thieves can still get at your benefits another way. They can route payments into their own bank accounts or debit cards. Close to $28 million in old age pension and disability benefits was stolen between October 2011 and June 2013.
Once thieves get a victim's Social Security number, stealing benefits is easy. They simply pretend to be the recipient and instruct Social Security to deposit the benefits into new account, saying that their bank information has changed.
Especially skilled thieves may not even call SSA. They will hack into a recipient's online account and change bank or deposit car information.
A Senate Committee Is Investigating the Problem of Stolen Benefits
A Senate committee has begun to study the issue to try to figure out strategies to stop these crimes against the elderly and disabled. The issue is urgent, because recipients of old age pensions and Social Security Disability benefits frequently have no other resources to buy groceries, pay rent and obtain medications.
The committee heard testimony about these thefts. One witness told the story of a 57-year-old disabled Philadelphia woman who lost six months of SSD payments from a pre-paid debit card. Her debit card company said they were not responsible for the theft. The woman was evicted from her apartment because she could not pay her rent.
Reduce the Risk of SSD Benefit Theft
Recipients may be able to opt out of the electronic transfer requirement, but the conditions are stringent. Even obtaining the correct forms is challenging. Opting out is not an option for most SSD beneficiaries.
Despite this, there are still things you can do to place roadblocks in the path of thieves who are trying to get your benefits:
- Don't give out your Social Security number, bank routing information or other personal data to anyone you don't know
- Don't send or wire money to someone you don't know
- Call the local SSA office if someone phones you claiming to be an SSA employee and asks you for your Social Security number or other personal information. Or you can call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
This information about SSD benefit theft was brought to you by Binder & Binder®, American's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. You can learn more about them by calling 1-800-66-BINDER.
Source: AARP Blog, "Are Your Electronic Social Security Benefits Safe?" Jun. 19, 2013.