News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 12, 2014

Avoid the stress of Social Security fraud

Brian Hewitt
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — April is Stress Awareness Month, but one thing that should never cause you stress is doing business with Social Security.

However, if you fall victim to fraud, it can really stress you out, not to mention damage your credit score and wallet. We encourage people to be cautious of suspicious email, letters and phone calls, or any time someone asks for personal information.

Generally, Social Security will not call or email people and ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number or banking information.

If someone calls and asks for this kind of information and claims to be from Social Security, do not give out personal information without first contacting us to verify the validity of the request.

It could be an identity thief phishing for personal information. Contact our toll-free number at 800-772-1213.

Report suspicious calls to our Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT, or online at oig.ssa.gov using the “Fraud, Waste, and Abuse” link. When making a report, include as many of the following details as possible:

• The alleged suspect(s) and victim(s) names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and Social Security numbers;

• Description of the fraud and the location where the fraud took place;

• When and how the fraud was committed;

• Why the person committed the fraud (if known); and

• Who else has knowledge of the potential violation.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.idtheft.gov or call 877-438-4338 or 866-653-4261.

Misleading advertisers may victimize people who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Such companies offer Social Security services for a fee, even though the same services are available directly from us free of charge.

Especially upsetting are ads that make it appear as though they came directly from us. By law, such advertisements must indicate that the company is not affiliated with Social Security.

If you see what you believe is misleading advertising for Social Security services from a company that fails to say it is not affiliated with Social Security, report it to us at: Office of the Inspector General, Fraud Hotline, Social Security Administration, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235. This goes for advertisements in print, online or on television or radio.

Also, advise your state’s attorney general or consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau. Visit the Office of the Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov and select the “Fraud, Waste or Abuse” link.

Learn more about identity theft and misleading advertising by reading our publications on the subjects at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs.

Brian L. Hewitt is district manager of the Social Security Administration office at 222 Cherry St. in Terre Haute.