The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 8, 2012

Social Security scammers try new ploy

The scam begins the way so many others do: An older person answers the phone and is told he or she has won the lottery. Or maybe there’s been a problem at the bank.

The caller needs a Social Security number or some other private information to proceed.

But instead of using the information to open an unauthorized credit card or conduct some other shady business, there’s a new wrinkle: The scammers divert the person’s monthly Social Security benefit payments into their own accounts.

Most frequently, the older person had been receiving the payments by direct deposit. The scammers call the Social Security Administration or go online or to a bank and use the personal information to change the destination of the payments.

The Social Security Administration’s inspector general received 19,000 reports of potentially fraudulent changes or attempted changes between October 2011 and this September. As of Sept. 12, the office had received 50 reports per day.

The administration’s Chicago regional office confirmed that the Columbus offices have seen the fraud, though a spokesman said he couldn’t discuss specific cases.

And a federal Treasury Department rule that takes effect in March will require almost all Social Security benefit payments to be made through direct deposit. More than 90 percent already are.

The scam is “a current and serious challenge for the agency and its beneficiaries,” Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll Jr. said in congressional testimony last month.

Michael Walters, a lawyer who manages the legal hot line for the Cincinnati-based nonprofit group Pro Seniors Inc., said his organization recently received two calls from seniors who had their benefits payments diverted. The scam is working its way into Ohio, he said.

Local Social Security offices “need to treat this as an absolute priority,” he said. Walters noted that in the one case he handled, the Social Security Administration acted reasonably and reissued the payment to his client.

The administration takes all of the reports seriously, said Doug Nguyen, a spokesman for the Chicago regional office. Most of the 19,000 reports of potential fraud came from Social Security employees or offices after they had noticed suspicious activity.

Not all of those reports were actual fraud, he said. And the 19,000 reports came out of 711?m illion total payments, so the overall percentage of possibly diverted payments is less than one-hundredth of a percent.Nguyen said that people who are worried can block all electronic access to their Social Security accounts through the website www.socialsecurity.gov/blockaccess. That will make it impossible to change bank accounts and other information over the phone or online.

The Social Security Administration is working on another sort of access block that it will unveil by the end of October, Nguyen said. O’Carroll, in his congressional testimony, said that the administration and banks need to do a better job of verifying identities before making account changes.

The most basic precaution is to guard your private information, say Social Security officials. Don’t give out a Social Security number to someone in an unsolicited call.

That’s not always easy with the population targeted in this scam. Donna Roush, 84, of the North Side, reported to the Ohio attorney general that her husband had given out his Social Security number in 2010 after repeated harassing phone calls.

“We were so worried about our money,” she said. After talks with their bank, though, it seemed that no one had defrauded them.

Those worried that they have been victims of Social Security fraud can make a report to the administration’s Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or through oig.ssa.gov.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Potential for heart attack, stroke risk seen with marijuana use

    Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cleveland women held captive seek Joan Rivers’ apology

    Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter’s guest room with the captivity they experienced.

    April 24, 2014

  • Fracking foes challenge earthquake assurances

    A citizens group said Wednesday it isn’t taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • U.S. weighs clemency for inmates jailed 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It’s an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

  • Panel’s role in Cleveland police ruling questioned

    A lawyer for families of men killed in separate 2012 shootings by Cleveland police — including a 137-bullet chase under federal investigation — is questioning a grand jury’s role in a recent county prosecutor’s ruling.

    April 21, 2014

  • Gender gap under Ohio governor nearly $10 an hour

    A newspaper investigation has found the average pay gap between men and women in the offices of four of Ohio’s five elected statewide officials has grown to as much as almost $10 an hour, as it’s shrunk to under a dollar across the rest of state government.

    April 21, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video