Protecting your social security benefits

Be aware of con artists claiming to represent the social security administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a financial safety net for Americans. Older Americans who have paid into the system are eligible to receive a monthly stipend to supplement their incomes. Disabled individuals are eligible to receive supplemental or disability income. The Social Security Administration offers a great benefit but recipients may find themselves as unwilling victims of scam artists.

Two of the most popular scams involve criminals masquerading as authentic Social Security personnel. In one scenario, victims are called and asked to provide their personal information. The con artists states the information is needed because the victim is due to receive additional funds but a computer malfunction has deleted their information. The other scenario uses bogus emails to contact the victim. The emails are designed to look like they were sent by the Social Security Administration. The email encourages victims to update their personal information by clicking on a link that leads to a fraudulent Social Security web site.

The Social Security Administration will never request a client’s personal information via email. They also urge the public to avoid divulging any information over the phone to anyone claiming to be from the agency. If there is any doubt whether the agency needs information then the client can call SSA directly to verify the validity. The local Social Security office can be contacted or a direct call to 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) can be made to verify if any information is really needed from the client.

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam or fraudulent activity perpetrated by false SSA representatives or web sites, please contact the Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Call the OIG Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the OIG TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.) A Public Fraud Reporting form is also available online at OIG’s website.

Michigan State University Extension educators urge consumers to guard their personal information and be leery of sharing it freely. Please visit MI Money Health for more information on money management and scams. 

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