Social Security Fraud: Are You at Risk?
With more and more businesses and services moving to online platforms, the threat of cybercrime is growing larger every day. Social security accounts are one of many popular targets for hackers. Are you or your clients of age to collect social security benefits? Read on to find out what risks you face and what you can do to protect against fraud.
How does social security fraud work?
When it comes to social security fraud, one particular group faces high risk: individuals between the ages of 62 and 70 who have not yet applied to collect benefits. On top of that, the risk increases even more for those older than 66.5 because not only are they eligible to collect social security, but they also qualify for a retroactive lump payment of to up to six months of benefits.
Last year’s Equifax data breach greatly exasperated the problem of identity theft. By some estimates, the compromise included the personal information of as many as 143 million people. Unfortunately, the Equifax breach is not the only source of vulnerability when it comes to social security fraud. A key flaw in the system of social security websites leaves beneficiaries vulnerable to hackers. Here’s how it works:
- Individuals of age to collect social security benefits can set up a my Social Security account. Here, they can view statements, account information, and benefits; update their personal information, and; control their direct deposit settings. This website is secure.
- A second website, the Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit application website, exists to allow individuals to apply for benefits online. Unlike the my Social Security website, this one is not secure. By hacking into this website, a cyber thief can adjust an individual’s information and apply for benefits to be deposited into their own bank account.
- Fortunately, since address information cannot be changed via this second website, the fraud victim will receive notification via mail that their benefits dispersal has begun. However, by the time the letter arrives, the hacker will already have had one to two weeks to commit their crime.
What can you do to protect yourself from Social Security fraud?
Shortly after Equifax announced their historic data breach in September of 2017, the Social Security Administration released an article titled “Protecting Your Social Security.” In it, they offered the following recommendations for individuals seeking to secure their information:
- Create your my Social Security account in order to prevent a fraudulent account being created with your information.
- Set up two-factor authentication on your my Social Security account in order to increase your security.
- Alternatively, employ the Social Security Administration’s Block Electronic Access feature, which prevents all automated telephone and electronic access to your particular social security record. It is possible to disable the block in the future if you change your mind.
If you or your clients are in the high-risk category for this type of fraud, be proactive about researching options and helping them choose the best course for protecting themselves. If you or a client fall victim to social security fraud, be sure to immediately contact the Social Security Administration and file a police report.