Seniors are often targeted by scammers who prey on their limited incomes, and a new threat has the villains going after Social Security benefits. The shocking part is how easily the scheme is apparently pulled off: Thieves get personal information like names and bank account numbers, call the Social Security Administration and say “Hey, reroute that money to this other account.”
Yep, it’s apparently that easy, reports CNNMoney. Scammers sometimes call up seniors and convince them to give out personal info by pretending they’ve won a lotto that requires such details to claim big payouts. Fraudulent benefit reports can then just be switched to other bank accounts or often, prepaid debit cards, which are harder to trace because they’re not connected to a bank account. The scam has been hitting seniors recently, along with stolen tax refunds and disability benefits in some cases.
This comes at a tricky time for the SSA, as it’s trying to encourage everyone who receives benefits to make the move to a direct deposit system because of a new regulation prohibiting paper checks.
There were 19,000 reports of “questionable” changes to a beneficiary’s direct deposit information as of Aug. 31, said the inspector general’s office. Similar reports continue to flood in at a rate of around 50 per day.
That’s only a tiny amount of the 711 million payments the agency made int hat time, responds an SSA spokesman. And some of those are just simple errors, and not fraud. But the inspector general’s office says the SSA should be better at verifying changes to accounts, as well as make sure that any changes are coming from the beneficiary and not an identity thief. For example, recipients should get an automated email, text or other notification whenever something changes in their accounts.
The Social Security Administration said anyone who believes they are victims of fraud should contact the inspector general at http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse.