A Deerfield Beach retiree has already experienced what federal officials are now warning about: fraudsters attempting to steal Social Security recipients' monthly checks by rerouting them into new accounts.
"I felt so hopeless," Carol Smelewski said after she discovered thieves pretending to be she were requesting Social Security administrators to send her checks to an online account that she hadn't opened.
Luckily, workers didn't have enough time to process the request before Smelewski received her check — and she was able to tell local officials about the fraud.
On Friday, the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General issued a nationwide fraud advisory warning for seniors to be on alert so their money won't be stolen.
"In the most recent scam, identity thieves obtain the personal information of Social Security beneficiaries and use that information to attempt to open a 'my Social Security' account on SSA's website," the office reported. "If successful, they then use that account to redirect the beneficiary's direct deposit benefits to an account controlled by the thief."
Smelewski knew something was up when she recently received a letter from the Social Security Administration thanking her for opening an online account.
"I can't see enough to use a computer," she said, adding, "I haven't a clue" how thieves stole her identity to attempt the check theft.
Social Security officials declined to tell her what bank account or new address the thieves used. "They wouldn't tell me anything," Smelewski said.
Retirees should call or visit a local Social Security office if they receive a letter saying they have opened a "my Social Security" account when they have not.
Or, they can call the Social Security toll-free customer service number at 800-772-1213.
firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @donnagehrkeCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times