Cybersecurity experts have long encouraged people to register with MySocialSecurity even if they aren’t receiving benefits, because identity thieves register accounts in peoples’ names and siphon funds. But this story shows that even if you take the right precautions, you need to stay vigilant.
Ruth in Oklahoma received a letter from the SSA about a successful application to withdraw benefits—a one-time transfer of more than $11,000. She and her husband were confused, because both already had registered accounts with MySocialSecurity. The letter indicated that the benefits had been requested over the phone, meaning the crooks had called the SSA pretending to be Ruth and giving them enough information to enroll to receive benefits. After several hours of questioning SSA personnel, Ruth’s husband discovered that the crooks had had to supply Ruth’s birthday, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, current address, and phone number. Most, if not all, of this data is widely available for free online.
Ruth called the SSA to notify them of the fraud, and she and her husband spent more than 4 hours at an SSA office to put a hold on the transfer until everything was sorted out. They thought it was resolved, until she received a 1099 form indicating that the SSA had reported her "payment" to the IRS. The couple is still waiting to see how that turns out.
More than 34 million Americans now conduct business with the Social Security Administration (SSA) online. Reuters notes that a 2015 investigation by the SSA’s Office of Inspector General investigation identified more than 30,000 suspicious MySSA registrations, and more than 58,000 allegations of fraud related to MySSA accounts from February 2013 to February 2016. “Those figures are small in the context of overall MySSA activity—but it will not seem small if it happens to you,” writes Mark Miller for Reuters.
The Reuters story reminds readers to periodically use the MySSA portal to make sure that your personal information—such as date of birth and mailing address—are correct. “For current beneficiaries, if you notice that a monthly payment has not arrived, you should notify the SSA immediately via the agency’s toll-free line (1-800-772-1213) or at your local field office,” Miller advised. “In most cases, the SSA will make you whole if the theft is reported quickly.”
You can read the entire article at KrebsOnSecurity.