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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.
Lorriane Milian was caught completely off-guard when her Social Security direct deposit money was stolen.
“I said my God, what happened? And I checked in the bank – no Social Security,” said Milian, who lives in southwest Miami-Dade. “Nothing – blank.”
The 82-year-old woman, who has turned into quite the artist, never thought she would be torn from her artwork to deal with fraud.
But as a Social Security Administration document indicates, she is a victim. Investigators confirmed that her monthly payment of $628.83 was stolen – diverted from Citibank, where she does business, to another bank account.
The funds were deposited in another state, Milian said.
“I found it odd that it would be that easy for someone, because you would think it’s Social Security – you need a lot of information to do an electronic fund transfer,” said her daughter, Janice Gonzalez. “She's not the only one. This is something that is more common than you think.”
The trouble is so widespread that the top inspector for Social Security went before Congress recently to talk about the issue. Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll said that suspects have primarily targeted senior citizens’ “personally identifiable information” through telemarketing and other methods.
After getting the information, the suspects use it to make a direct deposit change and redirect a victim’s benefits to a fraudulent account, O’Carroll said.
Taxpayers are also victimized by such schemes. At some point, Social Security will replace Milian’s missing funds.
“As taxpayers we have paid her Social Security twice,” Gonzalez said.
Milian, who had pristine credit for years, now worries that her stellar credit rating will take a dip because of the fraud.
Her daughter, meanwhile, said she worries that many seniors who are defrauded may not be able to straighten it out.
Citibank said that none of its customers who have fraudulent activity take place on their accounts are responsible for it. Bank representatives said they want Milian and anyone else caught up in such a fraud to speak with them.
The American Bankers Association provides these tips to guard against “check fraud,” or the unauthorized use of your account:
• Don’t give your checking account number to anyone unless it's a call you have initiated.
• Only reveal checking account information to vendors you know to be reputable.
• Guard your checkbook. Report lost or stolen checks immediately.
• Read your monthly checking statement and review for fraudulent usage.
• Properly store or dispose of canceled checks.
• Report any inquiries or suspicious behavior to your banker, who will take measures to protect your account and to notify authorities.