JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Marie Boyett needs every penny of her $900 monthly social security check to get by.
“This pays my electric bill, my phone bill and helps take care of me.”
Action News has learned Boyett is one of 252,661 local seniors are at risk of a new scam.
According to the Office of the Inspector General, identity thieves are setting up accounts on the Social Security Administration website. From there they change victim’s direct deposit information, and send checks to their own accounts.
Tom Stephens, President of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, says ID theft is the easy part of this scam. To set up the account, thieves also obtain a copy of victim’s credit reports to help them bypass multiple SSA security questions.
“Typically, if you can match a name, an address, a social security number and a birthdate, you can do anything, but in this scam, if they have the wrong answers to those questions they won't be able to set up the account.”
But Stephens says when thieves have a will, they will find a way.
So far 2,400 victims have come forward, prompting the SSA to audit its online system. It’s still unknown how much money has been lost to this scam, but any amount to a senior like Boyett is too much.
“They have bills to pay. They have to buy medicine. They have to buy food, and there's nothing there to buy it with and they have to suffer the consequence if somebody did them out of it.”
The following information was released by the Office of the Inspector General to help social security recipients avoid this scam:
“If you receive information from SSA indicating that you have opened a ‘My Social Security’ account, and you did not open an account, you should contact Social Security so that appropriate action may be taken, and the matter may be referred to the Office of the Inspector General. You can do so by visiting or calling a local SSA office or calling SSA‟s toll free customer service at 1-800-772-1213. Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals can call Social Security‟s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.
Identity thieves obtain personal information in any number of ways. They may pose as Government officials in an attempt to convince you to provide personal and financial information. They may also claim that you have won a lottery or other prize, but you must provide personal information or even send money to pay “fees,” “taxes,” or other expenses before you can claim your winnings.
To help prevent this type of fraud, the Inspector General recommends that you:
• never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contacts
• never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person‟s name
• never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person
• always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.
To verify the legitimacy of a caller who claims to be an SSA employee, call your local Social Security office, or Social Security‟s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213. If you find that someone has stolen or is using your personal information to open credit accounts or for other non-SSA-related purposes, you should report that to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT. You can also find more tips on protecting your personal information on that FTC website. And you can report suspicious activity involving Social Security programs and operations to the Social Security Fraud Hotline, or by phone at 1-800-269-0271. Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals can call OIG‟s TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.”