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Dead but still collecting

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, February 25, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

retirement planning drama took place recently in a community near's North Palm Beach office. I thought you might find it interesting.

In response to suspicions by the Social Security Office of the Inspector General, sheriff's deputies dug up the backyard of a modest ranch home in Lake Worth, Fla., and found the bones of a woman who would have been 102 had she been alive. Then they alerted the Marietta, Ohio, police, who arrested the woman's daughter and charged her with defrauding Social Security out of $141,962 by collecting her mom's checks for 14 years.

Theft of government funds carries a statutory maximum possible punishment of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a period of supervised release of up to three years and the payment of a $100 special assessment.

The Social Security Administration uncovers about 1,500 of these cases a year.  The way many people get caught, according to Jonathan Lasher, a spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General, is a small problem with Medicare: The late loved ones never go to the doctor. While that might be easily overlooked when the dead relative is 65, it is not so easy to understand when the dead person has turned 100.

The other way that Social Security finds out is by fraud reports from family and friends. If you suspect someone is defrauding Social Security, call the fraud hotline at (800) 269-0271. Be prepared to provide as much of this information as you can:

  • Name, address, telephone number and Social Security number of the person suspected of fraud. Also include the individual's date and place of birth, father's name and mother's birth name, if known.
  • A complete description of the potential fraud incident.
  • Your name, address and telephone number.

How big is the total retirement fraud problem? A 2010 report compiled from government audits and reports by the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general and Congress found that more than $1 billion was sent to more than 250,000 dead people over 10 years.

Just ridding the Social Security system of dead weight -- pun intended -- would go a long way toward putting it on a more solid fiscal footing.

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April 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm

jails are super places to pigs like that to retire in

April 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

My sister is 76 with heart and lung problems, from years of smoking. We look for her to die any time. When she dies, I know of noone that will notify SS Administration. She has a number of mouchers living off her and her SS checks. How do you know when someone dies, that the SS Administration, has been notified? These people are so sorry, if they think they can get away with stealing her checks after she is dead, they'll do it.

william spires
April 09, 2013 at 10:39 pm

The U.S. Congress stole a lot more than 140,000 dollars from Social Security maybe they should get 10 years also.

March 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

What about all the people who work here and retire back to their homeland to collect? I bet some would be 120 if they were still alive. There's no easy way to keep tabs in another country so these people should have to leave DNA/prints or other foolproof form of ID then return every two years for verification. This should be understood by them BEFORE they leave.

March 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

My beloved husband expired October 2001. Just recently while reading the funeral information, I noticed the undertaker filed papers with the Veterans Administration for payment of his funeral (6,400.00) that was paid in full by me.

I am now contacting the Veterans Administration to inquire as to whether this undertaker was paid by me and the VA.

March 14, 2013 at 3:25 am

Well, it's $250 dollars that they pay you to bury your love ones, that would not even buy a vase of funeral flowers. My ex is still waiting for his Social Security disability payment. Unfortunately he has been in his grave for the last six months. They are pretty slow in getting help to those in need. Maybe she could not afford to bury her love one.

dan maceda
March 07, 2013 at 4:32 pm

It is or was the normal practice of Funeral Directors to submit a death certificate to SS to claim the death benefit for the family. The SSA provides a monthly file of deceased individuals' SS numbers to medicare claims processors to reduce fraud. Note that the SS recipient in this story was buried in the back yard therefore no funeral director. One billion dollars is a large number but over ten years compared to the billions paid each year it is not a large percentage

February 27, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Anybody who steals from us the people should be sent directly to jail no mercy.

February 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I think the idea that J.B.B. has is terrific!! I don't think it would take much for the funeral homes to submit that information to Social Security.