Anne LaPine, AAP is the Director of Marketing & Membership with The Payments Authority. On Monday, August 29th, she blogged about the recent scam of hijacking Social Security Benefits. You can read about the scam on Ms. Lapine’s blog or below:


Social Security Benefit Hijacking

As the director of marketing for an electronic payments association, I spend a good deal of time promoting the benefits and security of Direct Deposit, so I cringed when I saw this headline on the USA TODAY website:

Online Scam Hijacks Social Security Benefits
As electronic payments go to prepaid debit cards, it’s easier for thieves to reroute victims’ direct deposit.

The issue? The bad guys get their hands on Social Security beneficiaries’ personal information and then reroute the victims’ direct deposit. So, instead of the monthly payments going into the beneficiary’s bank (or credit union) account, the electronic payments post to prepaid cards that the thieves can use to get cash or buy merchandise.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years promoting the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s March 1, 2013 deadline for all-electronic federal benefit payments.  We told seniors “It’s safe to have your benefit payments directly deposited to your checking account or a prepaid debit card”.  Now we have to amend the message and tell them “It’s still safe, but you have to put additional controls in place”.  One step forward, two steps back…

In response to the rise in benefit hijacking, Social Security has made it more difficult for thieves by requiring additional identifying information when processing Direct Deposit account changes. And, the new details are now verified with a credit reporting agency prior to a change. But Social Security also recommends that SSA payment recipients who have Internet access also set up a My Social Security account. A required username and password, coupled with personal information that only the true recipient is likely to know, will make life harder for hijackers.

Benefit recipients can also block all direct deposit changes through the automatic enrollment process by contacting the Social Security Administration directly.

I encourage all to read the USA Today article, watch the accompanying video and visit the ‘My Social Security’ page on the website. We need to get the word out in order to protect the finances of our account holders, senior citizens, and loved ones.

Anne LaPine is Director of Marketing & Membership for The Payments Authority, the Association for Payments People®