May 14, 2018
I recently read about a new kind of fraud that is happening to people that have reached 62, the early retirement age for social security. Criminals are activating the social security benefits of people who have turned age 62 but have not started their benefits. The criminals go into the victims’ mySSA accounts and change the bank account information so that the social security benefits are deposited into the criminal’s account. The only notification the victims receive is a letter in the mail from the Social Security Administration notifying them that their benefits have started. Since people near retirement age often get a lot of clutter in the mail about their social security it can be easy to miss.
If you have reached age 62 or older but have not yet taken your social security benefits, then you are at risk of this happening to you. I’ve read that this type of fraud has become more common since the Equifax breach. Unlike credit card fraud or other kinds of fraud which become apparent pretty quickly that it has happened to you, social security fraud could be going on for several years until the victim decides they are ready to start taking retirement benefits.
If you fall into the demographic that is susceptible to this type of fraud, you probably want to know how to prevent this from happening to you. I did some research and found that you can take some proactive steps that will protect your retirement benefits. The my Social Security website added two- step authentication, a relatively new security feature. Enabling two-step authentication will prevent other people from accessing your account solely with your information. They would also need access to the device you setup your two-step authentication with, making the task exponentially more difficult. In addition to setting up two-step authentication, just be wary of unknowingly providing any personal information over e-mail, phone, text message, or on any other communication platform. If a criminal acquired your information from the Equifax breach they still may not have everything they need to profit off of you. Basic information like your birth city or mother’s maiden name could be what they need, so watch out for inquiries that ask even about basic information.
So what do you do if you find out that you have become a victim of this fraud? Your first step would be to report the fraud to the Social Security Administration. This is one of the many things that they deal with and they will help restore your benefits. You may have to go to one of their offices in person to provide identification documents to resolve the incident.
The combination of running a business and your life and preparing for tax time can drive some people into a slight panic. But no need to get stressed if you are prepared. Now is the time to start organizing all documents required to file your tax return.
Like the old paraphrased saying goes: In this world, two things are certain—death and taxes. The recent federal tax overhaul changed a lot of rules, so it’s as important as ever to understand your tax obligations, including those on Social Security benefits.
Unfortunately, cyber scammers never take a vacation. In fact, the IRS has issued a warning of a surge in fraudulent emails that bait potential phishing victims with fake tax transcripts. Links within these emails lead recipients to documents containing the well-known malware, Emotet.