When I see news stories about con artists preying upon people that rely on Social Security to get by, it makes me so angry. People living on Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, or who have retired and are collecting Social Security, don’t need any additional trouble in their life. Yet they seem to always be the people that wind up getting swindled.
I recently saw a story about a worker at the Phoenix Rescue Mission who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for stealing Social Security benefits from the homeless people living at the shelter. He had access to all the personal information of the residents, and was the person who handled all the mail going in and out of the facility, so he took advantage of his situation to steal over $61,000 in Social Security benefits.
As someone who spends my time helping people apply for benefits, this is so frustrating. There are way too many people out there who are getting scammed by the very people that are supposed to be helping them.
Here are a few tips that I hope will help people avoid being scammed by people they are supposed to be getting help from:
Consider going digital.
The homeless men who were taken advantage of had their benefits checks physically stolen by the person who handled all the mail at the facility where they were living. This could happen to anyone who has their mail taken care of by someone else, or who does not get their mail out of their box soon after it is delivered.
One way to prevent your benefits from being physically stolen is to set up direct deposit. With direct deposit, the government puts your benefit money directly in your bank account instead of sending you a physical check.
Don’t give your Social Security number to everyone that asks for it.
Did your dentist ask for your Social Security number the last time you went in for a cleaning? A lot of dentists do this so they can use it as a patient tracking number instead of setting up their own numbering system. And I don’t mean to pick on dentists, they are not the only businesses that do this, a lot of companies rely on Social Security numbers for client tracking.
Identity thieves have noticed this, and have started stealing Social Security numbers from these companies by hacking into their computer systems, digging through their trash, or bribing their employees to share your data with them.
So, the next time a business (or anyone) asks for your Social Security number, don’t automatically give it to them. Ask them why they need it, and what will happen if you don’t give it to them. If they don’t actually need it, don’t give it to them.
If you think something is amiss, notify the authorities right away.
If your Social Security card is lost or stolen, or you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, contact the Social Security Administration, and if applicable, your bank, immediately. You may even want to contact the police depending on the situation.
Be careful who you trust to work on your behalf.
Finally, don’t trust everyone that offers to help you. As someone that has dedicated their life to helping people navigate the Social Security system, nothing makes me angrier than seeing people be taken advantage of by people that are supposed to be helping them. If you have questions about someone who is offering to help you with your Social Security benefits, and you aren’t sure if it is a scam or not, please contact me and I will do what I can to help you.