Avoiding Scams While Receiving SSD Benefits

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits were created to help support those who suffer from physical or mental disabilities and are unable to work. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous scammers take advantage of those in need by stealing these benefits.

To avoid becoming the victim of a Social Security Disability scam, it is important to protect your personal information and remain wary of callers who claim to work for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and are asking for your Social Security number or account information. If you suspect that your payments have been stolen, it is important to contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who can advise you.

Obtaining Personal Information by Phone

There are, unfortunately, a variety of common scams that target those who receive disability benefits. In most cases, these scams involve someone impersonating a Social Security employee in order to obtain the recipient’s personal information.

For example, perpetrators often call recipients on the phone and pose as agents in order to “verify” the person’s personal information. This includes not only Social Security numbers, but also bank information and birth dates. Once the scammer has this information, he or she may contact the SSA posing as the victim and attempt to change the person’s direct deposit information. In this way, scammers are able to collect thousands of dollars in benefits that rightfully belong to others.

Victims may not even realize that they have been taken advantage of until they have missed numerous payments.

Another phone-based scam targets those who are applying to the Social Security Administration for benefits. In this scheme, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the scammer calls a person and offers to help them complete the disability benefits application process.

However, the victim is told that before the application can be submitted, he or she must provide identifying information, including a Social Security number or bank account number. Social Security Disability recipients are urged to be wary of those calling and purporting to be representatives of the SSA. You should not provide personal information or bank account information over the phone to anyone who you do not know. The Social Security Administration does not call and request sensitive account information over the phone.

Reimbursing the SSA

Sometimes, the SSA miscalculates an individual’s benefits and legitimately overpays those who are receiving disability compensation. Once the SSA realizes the mistake, the administration will send the benefits’ recipient a letter. The SSA often requires the recipients to return a portion of the funds. This is usually done by making deductions from future payments or by having the recipient send a check.

Unfortunately, many SSD recipients don’t know this and when they receive calls from someone purporting to be the SSA, they often send prepaid debit cards upon request to the scammer.

Recipients should be wary of any person who claims to be an employee of the SSA who requests repayment in this manner. Legitimate members of the agency will only require repayment through check or through deductions.

Online Account Scams

Recently, the SSA began using My Social Security Account, which is an online account system that was created to give recipients of disability benefits easy, online access to their Social Security information.

Users may check their earnings records, change their electronic payment methods, check benefit information, and receive an estimate of future benefits. Unfortunately, scammers have begun creating these online accounts for people who do not have one, after which they attempt to change the victim’s direct deposit information so that the disability payment is sent to their own account.

To help combat this type of Social Security disability scam, the SSA suggests that all disability payment recipients register for an account, even if they don’t plan to use it because if someone already has an account, a scammer’s attempt to create one would fail and the account holder’s personal information would remain protected.

Fraudulent emails, designed to look like they are from the SSA, are another common method of identity theft and Social Security disability fraud.

Many of these emails are written by scammers who ask the recipient to update his or her personal information in order to continue receiving benefits. These emails usually include a link to an official-looking website where victims are directed to provide their Social Security numbers and banking information.

This information is then used to collect the person’s benefits or to steal other assets.

Recipients should consider reviewing their online Social Security accounts to keep an eye on the status of their disability benefits and to review their statements. Those who find any discrepancies can contact the SSA before losing more benefits or assets to a scammer.

Text Messages

Scammers do not restrict their methods of contacting potential victims to computers and phone calls. In fact, the SSA has begun receiving a number of reports revealing that scammers have been sending text messages to disability recipients.

The texts direct the recipient to call a certain telephone number where they will receive information about their benefits, a pending claim, or a hearing. The victims are asked to provide personal information, which can be used to steal benefits.

To avoid becoming a victim of a disability benefit texting scam, remember to never provide personal information over the phone or by text message. The SSA never sends unsolicited text messages about disability applications or benefits. If you receive a call requesting information, it is almost definitely a scam.

Social Security representatives may contact you about an application for benefits or call to remind you about a hearing date. But they will never send text messages and won’t ask for personal identifiers.

Call Today to Talk with a Social Security Disability Attorney

If you have received a phone call, text message, or email from someone purporting to be from the SSA, do not hesitate to call your local Social Security office and report the communication to the authorities if the individuals requested personal information. Even people who use the utmost care to protect their information can fall prey to identity theft.

If you have questions about seeking Social Security Disability benefits, please contact us at Hardison & Cochran. Our legal team has the experience and resources to offer guidance about your SSD claim.

This post was authored by NCAJ Leaders Forum member Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law.    The firm’s focus on making things happen and putting the client first has proved successful. From the original office located in Dunn, North Carolina the firm has grown to add offices in Raleigh, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Southern Pines, Durham and Wilmington.

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Help for the Heroes

November 11th is Veteran’s Day.  It is a Day to honor our Nation’s bravest men and woman. Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was created to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent over Europe.  In 1954 the United States decided to stop calling it Armistice Day and renamed it Veterans Day.  The selfless acts of Veterans bring an unspoken peace to our nation that some will never fully appreciate. Those selfless acts leave many Veterans with scars for life. Our Veterans’ sacrifices are met with little to no reward once they are discharged.  Many of those that have been deployed overseas have witnessed the unimaginable so what do they do when they return? Surely there are some residual effects of being at War even if you cannot physically see them. What kind of assistance is available to our Veterans when they return home to help them cope with what they have gone through? Sad to say, but there isn’t much.

At the conclusion of WWI, Congress had established a new system of benefits for Veterans that had been in place for only a year which included disability compensation, insurance, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. It was not until 1944 and World War II that the GI Bill was created. Currently, Veterans have the right to disability benefits, reemployment rights, proper medical care, housing, etc., when they return to the civilian world.  (http://www.vfw.org/assistance).  However, in most instances, information about and access to these benefits are not readily available.  Fortunately, there are attorneys willing to help and in some cases pro bono. Luckily, in this day and age, we are also privy to a plethora of information on the internet — with a little research Veterans can obtain the proper help they need in order to ensure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to. (https://www.vetcompandpen.com/)

If you’re out on Veterans Day and happen to see a Service member, take the time to thank him or her for his/her service.  That’s the least we can do for the high price they pay to protect our freedom.

 Blog post author Kari Davenport works as a litigation paralegal at The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. Headquartered in Durham, the firm has offices throughout the state and focuses on Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury, Commercial Truck Accidents, Social Security Disability, Product Liability and Mass Torts, Intellectual Property, Civil Rights and Eminent Domain law.   

Social Security Disability and Unemployment

When we speak with new clients my office goes through a list of questions that, at first glance, seem unrelated to a disability claim. Have you received unemployment? What is your education level? What do you do on a typical day? We don’t do this boring version of the “20 Questions Game” to be nosy or waste a client’s time. Instead, the answers to these questions can sometimes make or break a claim.

Let’s be clear: A Social Security Disability (SSD) case cannot be won without strong medical evidence. But a good representative knows that it is important to show that the claimant is a person, not just a stack of medical records. In this mini-series, we’ll look at a few of the non-medical factors that can impact a claim.

Unemployment:

Receiving unemployment benefits after the date you say you became disabled (“alleged onset date”) can be big issue. There is a conflict between saying “I am disabled” while certifying for unemployment. In order to receive Unemployment benefits the worker has to be *able* to work and *actively seek new employment.* Certifying that those statements are true for Unemployment while alleging, at the same time, that a person is disabled and *unable to work* doesn’t always add up.

There are long delays associated with disability applications and appeals; how are claimants supposed to survive when they cannot work? This is a tough question the Social Security Administration does not clearly address. In 2006 the SSA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Honorable Frank Cristaudo, issued a memorandum that stated that receiving Unemployment benefits did not make a claimant ineligible for SSD benefits. However, in 2011, a federal court case, Roberts v. Astrue, affirmed that a Judge was correct in using an application for Unemployment against the claimant.

Social Security judges are not consistent with how they approach unemployment. Some do not focus on the issue and leave it up to the State of North Carolina. Others will not award benefits for the time period when a claimant received unemployment; an amended onset date may be required.  Changing the onset date may impact the amount of retroactive benefits (“back-pay”) and the date of Medicare eligibility.

In short, when it comes to Unemployment, honesty is the best policy. If you decide to apply for Unemployment be truthful about your Disability application status. Also be sure your SSA Disability representative knows if you received unemployment benefits.

Oxner + Permar, PLLC is a leader in North Carolina injury law concentrating on workers’ compensation, personal injury and social security disability.  The firm has offices in both North and South Carolina. For more information, visit www.oxnerpermarlaw.com.