You probably know Social Security fraud costs taxpayers billions of dollars, but how does all that money get swiped?
There are a lot of ways to commit Social Security fraud. Not all of them are obvious. Fraud often occurs anytime someone receives Social Security payments they’re not entitled to. The Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA) cites a few common examples:
- Hiding work activity while receiving disability benefits.
- Getting Social Security benefits for a child not under your care.
- Failing to let the SSA know that a beneficiary has died and continuing to receive and cash the checks sent to the deceased.
Consider this: About 6.5 million people who had active Social Security numbers in 2015 appeared to be at least 112 years old, a government audit found. The real number of living Americans more than 112 years old is closer to five, according to Gerontology Research Group, based at UCLA.
That kind of discrepancy makes all kinds of fraud possible.
Types of Social Security fraud
The Office of the Inspector General lists 11 types of Social Security fraud, waste and abuse. Learn more about them here, as well as how to report fraud when you see it.
1. Making false statements on claims
What it is: When you apply for Social Security benefits and give information you know is untrue.
Example: You say you have no source of income, but you do.
2. Hiding facts or events
What it is: When you conceal facts that affect eligibility for benefits.
Example: You neglect to say you’re in prison.
3. Misuse of benefits by a representative
What it is: When you represent a family member or friend who is unable to manage his benefits, then spend those funds for unintended purposes.
Example: You cash the beneficiary’s check to take a trip to Hawaii.
4. Buying or selling fake or real Social Security cards
What it is: Like it sounds—when you buy or sell bogus or genuine Social Security cards.
Example: You find someone’s Social Security card and you sell it to someone who might use it for identity theft.
5. Crimes involving SSA employees
What it is: When you work for the SAA and sell Social Security cards or steal checks. Also, when you help someone else to.
Example: You steal a beneficiary’s check and cash it.
6. Impersonation of a Social Security Administration employee
What it is: You pretend to be an SSA employee—in person, online or on the phone—in an effort to steal someone’s money or identity.
Example: You call an elderly person and say you need information such as her Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account number.
7. Bribery of an SSA employee
What it is: When you offer an SSA employee anything of value in exchange for government services.
Example: You offer an SSA employee $100 to approve your application for disability benefits.
8. Misusing grant or contracting funds
What it is: SSA oversees a lot of grants and contracts, and waste and mismanagement counts as fraud.
Example: You offer an SSA employee an envelope with cash to win a contract.
9. Violations of standards of conduct
What it is: SSA employees are bound by standards of ethical conduct, and disobeying federal, state or local laws or regulations is a violation.
Example: You work a second job during the time you’re being paid to work as an SSA employee.
10. Workers’ compensation
What it is: When you receive Social Security disability benefits and you fail to inform SSA that you’re receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Example: You double dip. You know your Social Security disability benefits will be reduced if you receive workers’ comp benefits.
11. Social Security number misuse involving people with links to terrorist groups or activities
What it is: A type of fraud tied to national security.
Example: You discover someone you know has a fake Social Security card and may belong to a terrorist organization. You contact the Social Security fraud hotline.
5 ways to report Social Security fraud
What do you do if you witness or suspect Social Security fraud? Report it. Here are four ways:
- Internet: Fill out and submit a fraud reporting form online.
- Mail: Social Security Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17785 Baltimore, MD 21235.
- Phone: 1-800-269-0271.
- TTY (text telephone): 1-866-501-2101 (for the deaf or hard of hearing)
- Fax: 410-597-0118.
In fiscal year 2015, the Office of the Inspector General received 89,000 allegations through the fraud hotline.
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