What is social security benefit fraud? In short, social security benefit fraud involves either applying for or actively receiving undue benefits from the Social Security Administration. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration received 51,311 reports of alleged fraud between October 1, 2002 and March 31st, 2003. Fraudulent benefit claims cost the Social Security Administration millions in overpayments annually.
What are some examples of Social Security benefit fraud?
- Offering false statements or information during the application process constitutes fraud. Whether applying for Medicare, supplemental Social Security or Survivor benefits, or Disability, the information provided by the benefit seeker determines the eligibility for aid. Providing false or misleading information on the application often results in undeserved aid.
- Accepting the benefits for a deceased person is another common way in which the program is defrauded. The Social Security Administration should be notified immediately of the death of an individual receiving benefit.
- Failing to notify the SSA of changes which would result in a decreased need for benefits constitutes fraud. If an individual’s household income or living arrangements change, the benefits may require adjustment.
- Identity theft or using another’s Social Security Number to apply for or to receive benefits has increased in frequency in recent years. Many are aware that Social Security numbers are often stolen and misused for the purpose of securing credit, but in some instances identity theft is also permitting individuals to receive Social Security benefits.
- Social Security fraud may involve the acceptance of the benefits of a living person under false circumstances. Many recipients of social security find themselves residents of nursing facilities, group homes, or under the care of others who agree to use the social security benefits appropriately toward that person’s care. When funds are accepted, but not used appropriately, fraud is committed.
What are the penalties for Social Security Administration fraud? Depending on the offense and the level of fraud involved, the offender may be subject to criminal prosecution of either misdemeanor crimes or of felonies. In many cases, the offender must make restitution for monies falsely received.
How can you report Social Security Benefit fraud? Contact the Office of the Inspector General at the Social Security Administration, either by mail or phoning the SSA Fraud Hotline (1-800-269-0271). You may be referred to additional agencies, such as the FTC, if the fraud involves identity theft.