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Another Side Effect of COVID: SCAMS

Just when you thought you’d heard everything about COVID!  We early on learned how to be vaccinated, and most of us listened.  We heard how to treat COVID and we’ve been fortunate to have a couple really effective treatments if they are taken early. But there has been one effect for people over 65 years of age or the disabled qualifying for social security benefits even if they’ve dodged the virus!

With more than 70 million beneficiaries receiving almost $120 billion in benefits every month scammers saw an opportunity.  While a fraudster might not pass for grandma at a Social Security window in the federal building, they could surely pose as grandma online or by calling in.  They just needed enough information to be able to go online to pose as grandma, and it worked for 2,000 people receiving benefits whose monthly money was redirected to another bank account.  In some cases people were qualified for benefits, but were waiting to be older for more benefits.  When they reached their age goal they found that money had already been directed to an unfamiliar bank account before they finally applied.

When COVID was finally recognized as the invasive scourge that it is, businesses and social contact were shut down and human to human contact was discouraged so as not to transmit the virus.  To avoid becoming a locus for transmitting COVID even the Social Security Administration closed its doors and continued to conduct business by phone or online.  Less transmission of the disease followed, but so did a unique matrix of scamming.

How did the bad guys get the key information they needed to pose as the defrauded individual?  They might have needed only a phone number to place a call to the unsuspecting recipient, and once they had the extra information, they could simply go online to finish the transaction.  For those who had not yet filed, it worked also with 6,100 fraudulent claims.  It might be a call from a “doctor’s office” requiring information or from an insurer promising “free benefits” for a “qualified individual.”  Some information is simply sold on the dark web.  Some of it was hacked simply because the federal website is not secure enough.

So, if a payment is missing, call SSA immediately.  If you’re not yet receiving benefits, check your account online regularly.  Or, just watch for our next post on scamming…what we learn, we will share with you.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Retirement Lifestyle Coach and founder of Creative Care Management, LLC, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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