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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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February 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm

How about this one; an immigrant. Comes here works for about 6 or 7 years just long enought to get into the system. Reaches the age to collect SS benifits, starts to collect and moves back to the Phillippines and now lives like a king on American benifits.

February 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I think ss should take a better look at the people who are getting ssi payments and the reason why they are getting them. I don't think it should only be giving to people at retirement age your spouse dies at a earlie age and you have children and your spouse has paid into the system the other spouse should be able to receive the benefits .

Winder Spartan
February 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Just more glowing examples of what can go wrong when you allow the government to administer programs that have anything to do with distributing economic value. It is literally criminal to allow such malfeasance of responsibility to continue unchecked. Anybody ever hear of the term "audit"?

r saxton
February 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Another way people cheat on the SS system is when a person becomes sick and gets on SS Disability. Then they get better and don't bother to tell anyone. They continue to collect benefits but they must not collect any documented income or else they may be discovered. Although, SS is not paying much attention since they do not require any yearly re-certification anyway. I know of several who are doing this. What a system!!

February 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

How about the people who worked when social security started? And they die before 65. I believe if you didnt put anything into it you shouldnt be able to get anything out of it. I agree with Walter and its me .Ihave seen people on food stamps with a cash balance buy cigarettes. Real needy people cant get help. How sad is this? Its a new world. Nobody wants to work anymore.

February 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

All they have to do is implant GPS alert systems inside everyone with a SS number. When we die, it will send a signal to a server that the person is deceased and Uncle Sam will collect the GPS tracker and cease payments of SSA benefits. Simple? Ha-Ha!

February 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm

SAD AND UPSETTING! On top of these, the U.S. lets a lot of those who never worked here in the U.S. (and already owned properties in other countries) collect S.S.I (after staying in the US and obtaining their US Citizenship) and having their "pension" directly deposited to their banks; live lavishly and brag about having full medical/dental/vision benefits. Those of us who worked hard to earn SSA benefits, have paid for our medical coverage and Medicare, are still digging into our pockets for medical co-payments, taxes, etc. There's definitely something wrong with he system!

February 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

It's unbelievable the low levels that some will stoop to to obtain money!! Unfortunately, those of us ENTITLED to Social Security Retirement (or in my case, SSD), must jump through numerous hoops erected by the government, which compels us to hire an attorney, who then takes a large chunk of any retroactive pay for what?? Navigating a system that has been allowed to grow so large as to be unworkable for a large number of us. Maybe the government needs to streamline the system to make it more user-friendly and cut these attorneys out of funds that rightly belong to the reciepient!!

February 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm

There are also people that are getting SSI payments and they are incarated and their payee is getting the payments every month and there so many people that having a hard time of getting the payments started.

February 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

The SS program was intended as a supplemental retirement program for those who actually lived long enough to receive payments. It was never intended as a way for those who became disabled prior to age 65 to get money from the government.

It also wasn't started to ensure that family members received payments if the individual died.

Social Security could easily be fixed by merely going back to only paying individuals who actually reach age 65. There should be no early payments beginning at age 62 and no SS disability payments.

If you don't live long enough to collect benefits or you only get a few checks before you die, so be it. That is the way the program was intended to work in the first place. If you live a hundred years, good for you. You would receive SS benefits for 35 years.