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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
roy
February 27, 2013 at 5:07 am

hell just overhule the goverment frist and put folks with commom sense in ! job done !

Lorraine
February 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Maybe we need to have people at age 85 go to a S.S. office and identfy themselves so noboby can collect their checks for years after they are dead. Alot of money would be saved to help others.

Lorraine
February 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I agree with Mary,its disgraceful that people from other countries receive S.S. checks after never working in this country or paying into the S.S. fund..After working and paying into S.S. and just retiring at 75, I receive a small check that I try to live on. Maybe if we weren't supporting these people who never did a thing to deserve it, we might be able to give a little more to those of us who do deserve it. What politicians came up with this idea anyway? Same thing with Medicare benefits...

allison morgan
February 26, 2013 at 10:50 pm

You CANNOT collect Social Security unless you have paid into it,and what you will receive each month is based on the accumulated earnings of your entire working life after age 21.
My personal dealings with the S.S. Federal employees has been excellent,I found them very helpful and efficient.

charles
February 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

THATS THE DEMOCRATS FOR YOU! spend spend spend and then spend some more. Take away all the free cell phones, food stamps, welfare, and all the other free give me items along with just taking care of the U.S. To hell with all the other countries, what about we the people. Oh yeah we will remember come election day. GO TO HELL DEMOCRATS.

LOu
February 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

The entire SSI system needs to be looked at. Some families have 6-7 children on SSI disability and each one can receive at least $700 per month, even with 3 kids receiving SSI disability thats $2100 per month, on top of that they qualify for public housing, medicad, food stamp etc. A person that has worked and paid into the system has a family max. Why can't SSI disability have a family max. Why should some of these people work when they can get all the freebees in the world.

James
February 26, 2013 at 7:59 pm

America is a broken system. Greed, fraud, special interests, bailouts for poor business management,super inflated salaries,government abuse like overtaxing the people;undertaxing the corporations and the super rich,social programs for people who don't need or deserve it and nothing for those who do,insane wars,monetary aid for enemies of our nation,non-citizens voting(sometimes twice),and on and on.... I've given up on GOV cause GOV'S given up on me!Mrs Oboma said "for the first time...I'm proud of this country." WELL for the first time in my life of 57 years I'm ashamed of this country.. All said it's still the best in the world. Yall keep it tight with GOD and pray for us all.

timothy iwanski
February 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

After reading all these comment's,all people have valid point's,but the whole system need's to have a major over haul. Where does one start. My feeling ,since the time, who was it Eisenhower who created SSDI. if the money would have only been used for what it was intended to be used for S.S. wouldn't have a problem,#1, why is it that when thing's get tough they have to blame it on S.S., sure it's a problem now, now that they have abused it for so long. #2 people who have never worked a day in their life should not be elidgable for these benefit's, If they are really in bad health, sure we need to find a different way to fund something for people in that situation, that can be created from all the other misuse of money, and fur the people defrauding the system they should do time and have to repay, and lose all access to future benefit's, this causes a major problem in the system, well don't have time for the rest of what I would like to say, could go here all night, but I gotta be somwhere..

grandma
February 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

There should be someone in place to police the issue you brought up then maybe ss would be available to our kids coming up in the workplace. Address the issue with manpower. The govt doesnt mind wasting money on things that dont matter; well this does.

Mary
February 26, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I want to understand one thing about our SSI, how can someone who comes here from a foreign country and reaches 65yrs of age and starts receiving SSI & Medicare or someother health insurance, and never has worked a day in this country and has not contributed to the fund? I here this by many people, how about helping our Americans who really deserve it. Like someone said, something is not right, get rid of the dead beets.