Retired nurse Jacqueline Midulla lost her $1,032 Social Security payment to a criminal, says the Tampa Bay Times. No one took her purse. No one stole her mail. In a new twist on identity theft, someone convinced the Social Security Administration this summer that Midulla had a new bank account number. Her payment went onto a thief’s reloadable debit card and vanished before anyone had a clue. Fifty times a day, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General gets a report of an unauthorized change or attempted change to a direct deposit routing number, often resulting in a missed check.
That’s what Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll told members of Congress this month, referring to a “recent rash” of fraudulent activity, which he described as a “serious issue facing SSA.” The agency began tracking potential fraud reports in October and has logged 19,000 of them, O’Carroll said. That doesn’t mean there are 19,000 victims, cautioned Jonathan Lasher, assistant inspector general. Innocent error by the beneficiary, bank or Social Security Administration is sometimes to blame. One small study of 33 cases last fall found five attributable to input mistakes. Most victims had given out, or lost, their personal information to identity scammers. How did that translate to altered routing numbers? Neither Lasher nor a Social Security spokesman would explain. The government doesn’t want to provide a road map to help crooks steal from the elderly and the disabled.