Con artists often target retirees, whether by luring them into dubious financial schemes or just outright stealing their credit or debit card information. Now, a new type of identity theft is becoming increasingly common, and it’s a seriously frustrating and offensive situation to handle: Thieves are claiming other people’s Social Security benefits!
As you know, waiting a few years beyond your “full retirement age” can net you a larger monthly check from Social Security. But when you do file for benefits, Social Security might offer you a “deal”. In exchange for several months’ worth of retroactive benefits (in the form of a large check), you accept your original benefit amount from now on.
Con artists are aware of this situation, and have successfully stolen Social Security numbers in order to claim these large, retroactive benefits checks. To add insult to injury, you might not discover this theft until you’re notified that you now owe taxes on the money!
The Social Security Administration is working on improving their fraud detection system. In the meantime, you need to follow these steps to keep yourself safe:
Protect your Social Security number. Never provide it online, or over the phone unless you’re certain of the other person’s validity.
Open your mail. In the event that your benefits are claimed, Social Security will send a letter to notify you. Always open all mail from the Administration immediately.
Call your local Social Security office. If you suspect fraud, call your local office immediately, or go pay them a visit in person. Don’t call the national hotline, as it’s notoriously slow.
Notify the IRS. You’re at risk of tax fraud, as long as someone else has your Social Security number.
Check your credit report. If you see errors, notify the three major credit bureaus immediately. You might be at increased risk of other types of financial fraud, such as phony credit accounts created in your name.
Continue meeting with us regularly, as you plan for retirement and transition into your new life. We can help you stay on guard against financial fraud that often targets retirees.