in Data breach, Identity Theft

How to Prevent Social Security Fraud

Imagine your surprise when you go to file for Social Security and you are told that you fraud_alertare already receiving it. Or what about when your checks bounce because your social security payment was deposited into someone else’s account. Both of these are examples of social security. Both of which are on the rise. However, there is a simple, easy to use tool that can prevent these types of social security fraud from happening to you. The simple tool is “MySSA.”

MySSA

The Social Security Administration “SSA” has created a new program to help you manage your social security benefits online. It is called a “my Social Security Account”, “MySSA”. Here is the “sales pitch” from the SSA website.

Get your free personal online my Social Security account today!

You probably plan to receive Social Security benefits someday. Maybe you already do. Either way, you’ll want a my Social Security account to:

  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
  • Manage your benefits: Change your address; and start or change your direct deposit.

Setting up an account is quick, secure, and easy. Join the millions and create an account now!

MySSA is allows you to manage your benefits at anytime from anywhere using the Internet. This provides you with the opportunity to monitor for potential fraud in real time. The earlier you can detect the fraud, the better.

Unfortunately many Americans are unaware of MySSA giving identity thieves an advantage. If you have not set up your MySSA account then you are leaving yourself open to a thief create one using your credentials. Therefore, you have two options to protect your benefits.

  1. Register for MySSA to block a thief from doing it on your behalf
  2. Block electronic access

Option One: Register for MySSA

To set up a MySSA account visit the SSA’s website, www.ssa.gov, and click on the “MySocialSecurity” box in the lower left hand corner. You will be asked to enter your sensitive information including your social security number. Right now you are probably thinking “I refuse to provide my social security number online.” While nothing can be protected 100% the website does utilize security measure to protect your information. If it makes you feel any better I have already set up my MySSA account without suffering any negative consequences. Now that you have entered your information the SSA will verify your identity. They do this by asking your questions related to your Experian credit report. The questions are all multiple choice. A few examples are the name of your mortgage company, the amount of your auto loan monthly payment or other details that only you should know the answers. Because of this I suggest you set up your MySSA account where you have access to your financial records.

Once your account has been created you will be able to log in with your user-name and password to view your information. Just make sure you use a strong password and store it in a secure location.

Option Two: Opting Out

You also have the option to block electronic access to your social security account information. I personally have not used this option but I have heard it is a fairly simple process. I believe you can opt-out either in person or online. Here is the information from the SSA website.

 You can choose to block electronic access to your Social Security record. When you do this, no one, including you, will be able to see or change your personal information on the Internet or through our automated telephone service. You may want to block your information if you

  • have been the victim of domestic violence;
  • have been the victim of identify theft; or
  • have any reason you do not want your record to be available.

If you block access to your record and then change your mind in the future, you can contact Social Security and ask us to unblock it.

The choice is up to you. Just make sure that you do one of these or you may become the next social security fraud victim.

Warning Signs

If you have not set up your MySSA there are a couple of warning signs you should know. These warning signs may be your first indication that you may be a victim of social security fraud. They are duplicate account warning and a soft inquiry from SSA/MySSA on your Experian credit report.

Duplicate Account

If, while setting up your MySSA, you receive a notice that you have already set up your MySSA there is a good chance you are already a victim. This means that someone has already established a MySSA account using your credentials. You will have to contact SSA directly and dispute the account. More than likely you will have to visit your local SSA office to get the situation corrected. Pack a lunch. You might be there all day. Before going I suggest you call the SSA and ask them what, if any, documentation you will be required to present to verify your identity and dispute the fraudulent MySSA. This will save you from having to make a second visit due to missing documentation.

Experian Inquiry

If you observed a soft inquiry from either SSA or MySSA on your Experian credit report and you did not set up a MySSA account this is a warning sign. The only reason you would see an inquiry from SSA or MySSA is if you, or someone using your credentials, had created your MySSA account. As stated before, you will have to contact SSA directly and dispute the account. More than likely you will have to visit your local SSA office to get the situation corrected. Pack a lunch. You might be there all day.   Before going I suggest you call the SSA and ask them what, if any, documentation you will be required to present to verify your identity and dispute the fraudulent MySSA. This will save you from having to make a second visit due to missing documentation.

Think it Couldn’t Happen to You

In the past two months I have had five clients that were victims of social security fraud. In every case the thief was able to successfully create a MySSA account using my client’s credentials. While the source of the breach of their sensitive information remains unknown it is safe to assume it was through no fault of their own. The number of corporate data security breaches and the number of records exposed have been significantly increasing the past few years. Because of this there is a high probability that your sensitive information is currently available on the personal identifying information black market. The black market is where sensitive information is offered for sale from any where from $ .50 to $1.00 per record. The buying and selling of sensitive information is big business. Now the thief is armed with your name, address, date of birth and social security number. Next is the Experian identity verification questions.

The Internet has made it easy for identity thieves to search out answers to the Experian identity verification questions. Most of the answers are found through public records which in many areas are available online. Another source is social media. You could very well be posting information that provides enough clues for a thief to make an educated guess at the verification questions. Just in case you were wondering, I am not telling thieves anything that they didn’t already know. This information combined with the sensitive information bought online offer thieves everything they need to commit social security fraud through MySSA.

The best defense is to either block electronic access or register for MySSA on the SSA website. Failure to do either one greatly increases your risk of becoming the next victim of social security fraud. If you do not block electronic access or set up MySSA you are vulnerable to having an identity thief do it for you.

If you believe you may already be a victim of social security fraud we are here to help. Call 239-435-9111 to schedule an appointment to meet with a Certified Identity Theft Investigator.