Identity Thief Took South Florida Social Security Recipient's Money Through Online Account, Daughter of Victim Says

The Social Security Administration just issued a fraud advisory, warning beneficiaries to protect their personal information

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6 South Florida
    The monthly Social Security check for Maria Elena Ruiz's father was redirected to a bank account controlled by an identity thief.

    As Maria Elena Ruiz was getting ready to pay her father's medical bills for the month, she realized there was a big problem.

    "There was no money!" she said.

    Social Security Recipient's Money Stolen Through Online Account

    [MI] Identity Thief Took South Florida Social Security Recipient's Money Through Online Account, Daughter of Victim Says
    The monthly Social Security check for Maria Elena Ruiz's father was redirected to a bank account controlled by an identity thief. She spoke about what happened. Patti Patterson, the regional communications director for the Social Security Administration, issued a statement on how some cases of attempted fraud with electronic payments have occurred. (Published Monday, May 6, 2013)

    Federico Ruiz's monthly Social Security check should have been deposited directly into his bank account. But it looks like a payday came for a crook instead.

    "Somebody just went on the Internet, and it just got paid," Maria Elena Ruiz remarked.

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    Investigators confirmed that Lorriane Milian's monthly Social Security payment of $628.83 was stolen – diverted from Citibank, where she does business, to another bank account. Milian and her daughter, Janice Gonzalez, talked about the theft. (Published Thursday, Sep 27, 2012)

    With some key pieces of the senior citizen's personal information and a few clicks on ssa.gov, the thief was able to create an online account. It redirected Mr. Ruiz's benefits to a bank account controlled by the thief.

    Maria Elena Ruiz, who is the sister of an NBC 6 employee, says a letter she received recently should have been a telltale sign. It read in part "you successfully created an online account with the Social Security Administration. You can log in at anytime."

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    Credit security expert Elizabth Karwowski said that simply writing "See ID" on the back of your card can protect your identify. She also says consumers can pull their annual credit report and make sure all the information is correct.Police say the man in the grey shirt used a stranger's credit card to buy phone cards. Experts say you should file a claim on the FTC website, if you have been defrauded and also file a police report. Also, they say, contact the major credit bureaus and let them know what happened. (Published Friday, Mar 1, 2013)

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    Her father, who suffers from dementia and Alzheimer's, could have never created that online account. Though his benefits are missing in action, his bills are not.

    "He requires 24-hour, around-the-clock care," said Ruiz.

    Last Friday, the Social Security Administration issued a fraud advisory, warning beneficiaries to protect their personal information.

    Read tips from the Social Security Administration on how to guard against fraud.

    According to the agency’s inspector general, there have been just over 600 such allegations made nationwide between February and April 29.

    The SSA says it does not want to discourage beneficiaries from opening up an online account. That actually eliminates the risk that a thief will do so in your name.

    And if you get a letter like the one Maria Elena Ruiz did, mind the last paragraph. It reads, "If you did not request an online account please contact us immediately."

    People can also block unauthorized changes through the Social Security Administration's website and through the agency's automated telephone service by blocking electronic access at www.socialsecurity.gov

    "Some other cases of attempted fraud with electronic payments, however, have occurred through an automated enrollment process with banks and financial institutions (after a person's personal information has been misused or stolen)," said Patti Patterson, the regional communications director for the Social Security Administration, in a statement.

    "Social Security has implemented a process in 2012 that allows people to protect against fraudulent changes by blocking this auto-enrollment process," she added.

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    Ruiz is currently working to try to sort out the problem. Her father's doctor must fill out forms to prove he cannot handle this matter himself. What hurts her the most about the entire ordeal, she said, is that thieves don't realize they are hurting the people who need help most.

    "My father worked a lot of years,” she said. “He deserves that every day he lives, will be the best we can give him.”

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