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Dead but still collecting

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

retirement planning drama took place recently in a community near Bankrate.com'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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79 Comments
Larry T.
February 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm

People need to understand that SS is paid in arrears for one month. The actual pay date might be toward the end of the month. if a person dies on the 1st day of the month, then there would/should be two more checks paid. Also, the Mortician is correct. they are required to report the death to the SSA. When our mothers died (after their husbands) there were two more checks paid. The morticians had reported the deaths and everything went according to law.

In the case cited where the 102 year old woman's bones were dug up in the back yard, there was an obvious case of fraud.

I might also point out that the SSA's employees are human. They are as prone to errors as the rest of us. A typo could account for much of the problem. Greed probably accounts for the rest of it.

greg
February 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm

listen to you all. Arguing over nickels and dimes when your government can't do enough for GE BP and a boatload of others. Republicans fault? Democrats fault? You're a bunch of morons. Why not attack the real problem? Big corporations and banks. If they paid their rightful share you wouldn't even be having your petty arguments. Our government, BOTH SIDES , is nothing but a sham. Put in place by global businesses, for the good of global businesses.

Eneida
February 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

The different agencies don't work together, thus, lots of fraud. Why couldn't the SSI send out a letter every years to all the people that received SSI, requesting they come by the SSI office. For those who can't, you send someone out to them. Just show up. With technolgy of today, there are too many ways they could find out about people that have died.

Michael g
February 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Ellen P. President Obama has yet to come up with anything. It's easy to win when each liberal is allowed to vote six times and counties have more people voting than have registered voters. Get real. He is going down worse than Carter.

Oliver
February 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I am a funeral director and we are required to send a SA-721 "Report of Death" to the Social Security Administration.

Bev
February 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

The government should "Mandate" the coroner/doctor/or funeral parlor, to report a person's death directly to the Social Security Administration within 30 days. If not done,that person should be fined and charged interest on the fine until reported. This would at least notify social security and then social security could immediately discontinue payments of dead people. People who fraudulently collect on a dead person's Social Security should have their own Social Security forfeited (now or in the future).

patty
February 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I am really tired of people who claim they "know someone" who is ripping off the government. I am mandated to report on abuse, neglect, etc.. due to my work...What responsibility do these people take for allowing the rip off to continue... Usually I hear,,, they are friends, or relatives... So what do they want, cameras and eavesdropping by the government... If it is so irritating to you get off your arses and report it...instead of blaming the people sent to Washington... What part of Government by the people do you not get. Lazy slobs!!!

Ellen P
February 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Hank and Leon let's be real. SSI was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help people after the great depression. It worked. This SSI problem didn't start with President Obama; however, as the current President of the US, it falls under his administration and if he was working with a Congress that is willing to work for the good of the people, it just might get fixed.

My point, the Senate is spineless and Congress is inefficient and only has one goal, to ensure that President Obama fails. If the President submitted a proposal to fix SSI, it would fall on deaf ears, there would be no vote and SSI would remain as is.

The PEOPLE of this country have spoken, Barack Obama is the President, Congress needs to get over it and start working for the good of the people instead of their crushed egos. You want SSI to be fixed, write your Congressman.

Alex
February 26, 2013 at 4:18 pm

How in heaven does anyone get SSN for an individual committing fraud. Let alone any other personal information. I know of two people whom is receiving this type of payment & is healthier than me and works part-time under the table lifting more weight than me. How do they do this & I have to work & pay my taxes to keep them in the money?

Linda
February 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

And then there is this. If you apply for SSI (never having worked) and are allowed SSI ,your payments start as soon as you are approved and also you will be eligible for Medicaid immediately but if you apply for SSDI - social security disability insurance - and are allowed you have a 5 month waiting period before your actual payments start even though you would have had to pay into SS - then you have to wait 1 year before you are eligible for Medicare. Something isn't right here. Don't even get started on Food Stamps, etc.