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 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

Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Poll finds Clinton trouncing entire GOP field

    Hillary Clinton isn’t only the strong front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but she’s well ahead of every potential Republican rival, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.

    April 16, 2014

  • Ukraine bares teeth against eastern uprising

    In the first Ukrainian military action against a pro-Russian uprising in the east, government forces repelled an attack Tuesday by about 30 gunmen at an airport, beginning what the president called an “anti-terrorist operation” to try to restore authority over the restive region.

    April 16, 2014

  • U.N. Security Council sees grim images of Syrian dead

    The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France’s ambassador said. The pictures showed people who were emaciated, with their bones protruding, and some bearing the marks of strangulation and repeated beatings, and eyes having been gouged out.

    April 16, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia causing Ukraine unrest

    The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but suggested that President Barack Obama has not yet concluded that Vladimir Putin’s actions warrant broader sanctions on key Russian economic sectors.

    April 15, 2014

  • Woman arrested after dead babies found

    A Utah woman accused of killing seven babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered the tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.

    April 14, 2014

  • Rome man killed in crash

    The Ohio State Highway Patrol Chardon Post is investigating a fatal crash that took place just after midnight Sunday.

    April 14, 2014

  • 3 dead in shootings at Kansas facilities

    Three people died Sunday when a gunman opened fire outside the Jewish Community Center and a senior living facility in Johnson County, Kan.

    April 14, 2014

  • High fees eroding many 401(k) accounts

    It’s the silent enemy in our retirement accounts: High fees.
    And now a new study finds that the typical 401(k) fees — adding up to a modest-sounding 1 percent a year — would erase $70,000 from an average worker’s account over a four-decade career compared with lower-cost options. To compensate for the higher fees, someone would have to work an extra three years before retiring.

    April 14, 2014

  • Abortion in cases of rape: New rifts in old debate

    Poll after poll over many years has shown that Americans overwhelmingly support legal access to abortion for women impregnated by rape. Yet the issue remains divisive, as demonstrated by two current rifts — one involving U.S. aid policy overseas, the other highlighting strategy differences within the U.S. anti-abortion movement.

    April 13, 2014

  • Ohio geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads

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