Schemes to Defraud Social Security Beneficiaries

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There are seemingly endless ways to take away the much-needed money belonging to the poor, disabled and elderly. On July 20, 2017, the Acting Inspector General of Social Security, posted a warning on Social Security’s blog (https://blog.socialsecurity.gov/inspector-general-warns-public-about-ssa-employee-impersonation-scheme/). The warning was about a person who impersonated a Social Security Administration employee. The impersonator made calls to persons telling Social Security beneficiaries that they were due an increase of 1.7 percent for a cost of living adjustment on their Social Security benefits.

The area code used by the caller was 323. When making the call, the impersonator asks the beneficiary to “verify” his/her name, date of birth, Social Security number and the names of her/his parents. The “hook” to receive this personal and valuable information was a promise of an increase in benefits. What use is this information to the impersonator? A lot! An imposter armed with the personal information, the impersonator, can call the Social Security Administration and request changes in how direct deposit of the Social Security benefits are made, change the address and even the phone number.

The reason beneficiaries have difficulty in detecting this type of fraud is that Social Security Administration employees sometimes call benefit recipients. According to the Acting Inspector General, “in only a few limited special situations” does Social Security Administration call beneficiaries and request personal information. The Acting Inspector General suggest that if a beneficiary is suspicious of the caller the beneficiary should call the Office of the Inspector General (1-800-269-0271) or contact the Inspector General by way of the internet at https://oig.ssa.gov/report. The beneficiary who has questions about the legitimacy of a call from a purported Social Security employee can also call the local Social Security office or contact Social Security through its toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). When then, is a call from the Social Security Administration a legitimate call or a call from an imposter? There is probably no certain way to know unless the beneficiary who gets a call, hangs up and calls the Social Security by dialing a known Social Security number.

An earlier warning in March 2017 preceded the July warning. In fact, there were two warnings in March and the third warning in June 2017. The two warnings in March had to do with a fraud scheme like the scheme in July. In March, a person claiming to be from the Office of the Inspector General leaves a recording asking that the person calls a number. When the beneficiary the imposter tells the beneficiary that his/her benefits are have suspended and that the government issued an arrest warrant for the beneficiary’s arrest. The beneficiary is offered a chance to “make it right” by purchasing a music gift card for the caller.

The fraud warning in April dealt with a very select target: some former Kentucky clients of fugitive disability lawyer Eric Conn. Somehow the caller could identify some of Conn’s client’s. The caller represented that he/she was an SSA employee and that there was a “Conn Client Compensation Fund” from which the former client would receive $9,000 if only the client sent $200 to a particular account at the “Federal Reserve Bank of New York.” Follow-up calls offered more “Fund” money if the client sent more money to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Other follow up calls threaten the client with arrest if the beneficiary fails to send additional monies to the Bank of New York. There is, of course, no such fund.

Sadly, there are numerous fraud schemes which prey on the poor, the disabled and the elderly. The people who receive money Social Security is much needed. If there is any question about the legitimacy of a caller claiming to be Social Security employee the beneficiary should simply hang up and call Social Security at its toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

 

Indiana Trial Lawyers Association