social security

Beware of Telephone Impersonation Scams

Social Security and OIG Launch Campaign to Alert Public about Telephone Schemes

Please read the announcement below from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) addressing a nationwide telephone impersonation scheme. 

About 2 weeks ago, I received a call from a man claiming to be a federal agent conducting an investigation involving my social security number. He gave his badge number and proceeded to ask me for information to “validate” my identity. When I declined, he proceeded to verbalize that he was providing my address to the local Sheriff with a warrant for my arrest if I refused to cooperate with his investigation. As a means to intimidate me and show he knew “things” about me, he gave my address and a few other details (which are actually public record details). I continued to decline and said I will address any questions the Sheriff has directly. He encouraged me to get a good attorney as I would be taking on the Federal government.

I am happy to report no harm came to me nor was I pursued by anyone. The SSA and OIG announcement confirms that federal organizations like Social Security, do not call consumers. And just because someone claims to be from somewhere, gives a badge number or knows general information about you, do not start giving details like your social security number, date of birth or other personal details. 

We have included the announcement from SSA and OIG below.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) launched a joint Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign addressing a nationwide telephone impersonation scheme.

Social Security and the OIG continue to receive reports from across the country about fraudulent phone calls from people falsely claiming to be Social Security employees. Calls can even “spoof” Social Security’s national customer service number as the incoming number on the caller ID. The new PSAs will air on TV and radio stations across the country to alert the public to remain vigilant against potential fraud.

“We urge you to always be cautious and to avoid providing sensitive information such as your Social Security number or bank account information to unknown people over the phone or Internet,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “If you receive a call and are not expecting one, you must be extra careful – you can always get the caller’s information, hang up, and contact the official phone number of the business or agency the caller claims to represent. Do not reveal personal data to a stranger who calls you.”

Social Security employees do occasionally contact people--generally those who have ongoing business with the agency--by telephone for business purposes. However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent, and people should not engage with the caller. If a person receives these calls, he or she should report the information to the OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

“These calls appear to be happening across the country, so we appreciate SSA’s partnership in this national public outreach effort,” said Gail S. Ennis, the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “Our message to the public is simply this: If you or someone you know receives a questionable call claiming to be from SSA or the OIG, just hang up.”

The new PSA addressing the telephone impersonation scheme is available online at www.youtube.com/socialsecurity and below:

SSA employees asleep at the wheel when advising on widows’ benefits

Employees of the Social Security Administration have been asleep at the wheel when advising widows and widowers of the enhanced benefits that come with delaying claims to full retirement age, according to a report from the agency’s Inspector General.

According to the report, an estimated 11,123 beneficiaries were eligible for higher benefits had they delayed claims until age 70.

The misinformed filings resulted in about $131.8 million in underpayments to beneficiaries age 70 and older, and another $9.8 million in annual payments for those under age 70.

“SSA policy states its employees must explain the advantages and disadvantages of filing an application and the filing considerations so the claimant can make an informed filing decision,” the IG’s report says.

The extra funds overlooked in survivor benefits can mean the difference between living in poverty and relative comfort for many...

But the agency’s employees did not meet those obligations. “We did not find any evidence in the agency’s automated system to support the claimant’s decision to elect to file for retirement benefits, as required,” the report added.

The report also found that SSA did not have controls in place to alert employees as to when delaying benefits was in applicants’ best interest.

The findings in the report were based on a sample of 50 beneficiaries, 82% (41 individuals) of whom were eligible for a higher monthly benefit had they delayed claiming the retirement portion of their benefits until after age 70.

For the seven beneficiaries under age 70 that inadvisably claimed early in the SSA’s sample, the loss in benefits will be substantial. Upon reaching age 70, the average loss in benefits will be $5,185 annually.

When widows or widowers are entitled to benefits that exceed their individual retirement benefits, they have the option of delaying filing for the retirement portion of their benefits until age 70 in order to receive a higher monthly benefit. They can file limited claims that allow access to the widow benefit before age 70.

In one example, a beneficiary was paid retirement and widow’s benefits after filing an application in January 2011, six months before her 66th birthday.

From August 2015, when she turned 70, to September 2017, she was paid total benefits of $39,708. Had she delayed her retirement benefit until age 70, she would have been entitled to another $13,000 in benefits during that period.

“We did not find any evidence that SSA employees informed the widow about her option to delay her retirement application up to age 70 to increase her retirement benefits,” the report says.

The decision when to file for benefits belongs solely to claimants, the report notes. But SSA policy requires employees to electronically document when unfavorable filing decisions are made.

The IG recommends that the agency “take action” regarding the 41 beneficiaries in the sample that received lower benefits due to inaction from agency employees, though it did not say whether that action would include repaying benefits that were lost.

The office also recommends reviewing the remaining 13,514 beneficiaries that are potentially impacted from early filings, and exploring new controls to assure beneficiaries are informed of the option to delay retirement portions of benefits.

Source: www.benefitspro.com