Mike Causey is on vacation this week. While he’s gone, he asked some guest columnists to fill in. Enjoy!
Is the Social Security Administration system swamped with people diverting direct deposit payments meant for others? In yesterday’s column, an anonymous employee said the agency is being hit by hackers attempting to hijack direct deposits of legitimate beneficiaries. When it happens, he said, SSA might not know until the genuine recipient formally complains his or her benefit hasn’t been received. When/if this happens , major problem for the millions of current and former feds whose personal data (including their Social Security numbers and addresses) have been hacked.
So we asked Social Security about it. Press officer Dorothy J. Clark responded and included important information as to how you can protect your benefits and direct deposit from being stolen:
“In response to your question: are people asking our call centers to transfer them to the IRS? We have not heard about this anecdotally and we don’t track this type of information.
However, I am responding to the following portion of the column you included in your email. The e-mail said: ‘They (phone and Internet) have also opened up the trust fund to the hackers. They call with enough information to identify themselves and change the direct deposit on the checks and we never catch it until the real claimant tells us that they did not get their check. The newest trick is to get online and file a SSA claim for another person and supply direct deposit and address information so that the real person does not know checks are going out until they file and we tell them, ‘You have already filed.’ This could be years later after many checks have gone out. Guess who gets to eat the bill for the lost funds (you, the taxpayer). The crooks are always one step ahead of us. Each time we try to reduce the workload by making it easier to use the Internet rather than the phone or an in person call, they are sitting there figuring out a way to get into the SSA piggy bank.”
People may contact Social Security to block changes on their Social Security number.
People can block direct deposit changes through an automatic enrollment process with banks and financial institutions by contacting Social Security. Social Security created this service in November 2012 as a way to combat this type of fraud.
There have been instances where identity thieves have stolen peoples’ personal information and then attempted, in a small percentage of cases, to change the direct deposit of a beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI payment.
This type of fraud occurs when an identity thief steals enough personal information to pose as the victim.
In cases of our online services, people can block electronic access to their Social Security record at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. No one will be able to see or change personal information on the Internet or through Social Security’s automated telephone service with this block in place.
The most important thing for the public to be aware of is the need to protect their personal information. People should be careful when they provide their information.
They should not respond to unsolicited calls or emails asking them for their information.
They should only go to trusted websites and never click on links that appear suspicious. Criminals use phony websites and links to trick people into giving them personal information or downloading viruses or spyware.
People who think they are the victims of Social Security payment fraud should contact the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 (TTY 1-866-501-2101) or http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse. General questions to resolve payment issues should be directed to Social Security.
If a person believes they are the victim of identity theft, they should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) (TTY 1-866-653-4261) or go to http://www.idtheft.gov and click on the link for “Report Identity Theft.”