Treasure Coast seniors scammed out of Social Security dollars speak out

TREASURE COAST, Fla. - 87-year-old Jack Williams of Sebastian noticed a discrepancy in his checking, when a bank teller told him his account balance.

"Her balance and my balance was way off," said Williams.

The retired businessman keeps a careful record of his finances.

"I thought, well, that's just about what my social security check is," he recalled, of the difference in his figured total and what his actual checking account balance was.

Judy Gomersal, a 74-year-old in Port St. Lucie, said her identity has been stolen before through Medicare fraud.

"That's all they needed, was my name and my social security number," said Gomersal.

Gomersal and Williams are two of 144 Treasure Coast complaints about stolen Social Security direct deposits.

"My check was redirected to someone who had a debit card," said Gomersal. "It's a scam, and it's widespread, and nobody's talking about it."

According to a two-month investigation by the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, some seniors are ignoring a letter from Social Security that says a change to their direct deposit payments was implemented "as requested."

But the request, made by identity thieves, is all part of the fraud.

"A lot of elderly people, they don't even open their mail for days," said Gomersal.

Authorities say seniors should be on alert if they receive a letter saying their monthly check is being deposited into a new account, because that's the first warning of a scam.

If you receive such a letter, contact your local Social Security office to double-check on it.

Williams and Gomersal eventually got their money back, but Williams said he waited weeks for his check.

"I went through a lot of trouble," said Williams. "These things can happen, but you have to be so careful."

The Stuart News, the St. Lucie Tribune and the Indian River Press Journal will all feature this special report in their Sunday editions.

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