A new online Social Security scam is targeting seniors, the Better Business Bureau warns. What should you watch out for?
One victim, 71-year-old Patricia Bell of Florida, had received a letter in the mail informing her of her new online account on the Social Security website. The thing is, she never actually created this account herself.
It turns out, online scammers had been stealing all her personal information, including her Social Security number. They then used Social Security's new online system to log on as her, and changed her direct deposit information so that her check was redirected to them, WPTV reports.
For many, including Bell, their Social Security check is their only source of income.
Scams Are Common
Social Security scams are not uncommon. According to the Better Business Bureau, nearly 36,000 people have had their Social Security information stolen. However, this is usually done over the phone or through some type of impersonation scam. For Bell, her crook apparently went online to conduct this scam.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports nearly 2,400 victims nationwide have fallen victim to the newer, online version of this scam. In just the last few months, there were 34 in Florida alone.
The SSA is currently in the middle of an internal audit of their online records and system, and will hopefully be able to determine soon exactly how much money has been scammed out of the proper owners' accounts. They are also working on setting some preventative measures in place so that it doesn't occur again.
How to Protect Yourself
In the meantime, protect your information. This includes any email accounts or online bank accounts that may have your Social Security information stored.
Also, be wary every time you are asked for your Social Security number -- especially if it doesn't seem like normal protocol (for example, you should never be asked for your Social Security number at a grocery store).
And it might help to set up your own online Social Security account, before a scammer gets to it. Make sure you select a good password, too.
Lastly, if you suspect that you may be a victim, make sure you verify that your direct deposit information is all correct and to double check with the Social Security Administration to make sure that checks are still coming to your specific account or address.Related Resources: