New Social Security scam uses online site to bilk seniors out of money

Dozens across Florida fall victim to new scam

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - Pills and bills eat up Patricia Bell's monthly Social Security check.

"Without Social Security, we'd have nothing," said Bell, 71, of Okeechobee.

When she got a letter in the mail saying she had created an online account on Social Security's website, she called her son.

"Right then, I stopped, I said, I didn't do this," said Bell.

But someone had, stealing her personal information, including her Social Security number.

"I have no idea how they did that, " said Bell.

A crook used Social Security's new online system to change her direct deposit information.

They redirected her $1,200 check to themselves.

"Whoever is doing this is preying on the weak and the people that are just absolutely dependent on that little bit of change they get every month, that they worked their entire lives for," said Bob Reeves, Bell's son.

It's happening to thousands of people.

It begins when crooks steal personal information, usually with a phone or impersonation scam.

Then they change direct deposit information in person either at a Social Security office or a bank.

Nationwide, 36,000 have fallen victim since May of 2011.

But crooks can also use computers, as they did to Bell.

They steal personal information and use Social Security's new online system to create an account in the victim's name.

Then, they have easy access to change the bank account information.

The Social Security Administration says there have been 2,400 victims nationwide, 34 in Florida in just the last few months.

It's going to be a long week for Bell.

She won't get a replacement check until next Thursday.

She's speaking up to help others.

"To me it's scary, because I think, well, are they going to do it again?" she said.

The SSA says an internal audit is underway of the online system to determine how much money has been taken and how it can be prevented in the future.

Here's how to Protect Yourself

-Protect personal information

-Set up your online Social Security account before someone else does

-Preemptively block direct deposit changes
 

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