The Social Security Administration sends out both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits electronically each month so that the disabled can get the income they need. Unfortunately, our Boston disability lawyers know that this makes recipients vulnerable to identity theft and to having their benefits checks rerouted to debit cards that thieves can use to purchase merchandise or obtain cash.
USA Today discussed the phenomenon of the electronic theft of disability benefits, indicating that almost 40,000 cases of direct deposit benefit fraud had already been reported by July of 2013. The estimated cost of the potential loss to U.S. taxpayers in just a nine month period totaled around $17.4 million. For individual SSDI or SSI recipients who need their money to pay for necessities like food and rent, the theft of SSD benefits can also be absolutely devastating, even if the issue is later straightened out and the lost benefits paid.
Protecting Your SSDI Benefits from Scammers
Typically identity thieves are able to obtain your personal information in order to access your SSD benefits. A thief may be able to get your information by going through discarded mail; by hacking into computer databases; or by using other underhanded tactics to get your name, address, birth date, SSN number and other identifying details.
Armed with your personal details, an identity thief can sign into the online Social Security portal, which allows for benefits recipients to change their direct deposit details and to change their addresses. The thief is then able to have the money put onto a prepaid debit card that he or she uses, rather than the money going into your bank account where it is needed. Social Security will eventually reimburse you for this money that is redirected to scammers (the taxpayers footing the bill), but it could take time to sort everything out and get your money, which may be time you don’t have if you count on your SSDI or SSI income to live each month.
The Social Security Administration has taken steps to try to combat this fraud, including increasing the amount of identifying information that is necessary for someone to access or open an online account for the purposes of rerouting the benefits of another. The SSA also encourages all recipients of SSI and SSDI benefits to set up their own account on the Social Security portal, since if you already have an account set up, a thief is not going to be able to set up one for you to redirect your cash.
If you contact the SSA, you can also block any changes to direct deposit by the automatic enrollment process. This can help you to reduce the chances that your benefits will be taken if your information falls into the wrong hands. Finally, be careful about the information that you give out to anyone as scammers use all kinds of creative tactics to try to coerce you into giving them details they can use to defraud you.
If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Long-Term Disability Benefits Not a Given, Study Says, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Blog, September 30, 2013