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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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Edward Brog
February 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

My wife recently died, and I am entitled to a death benefit of $255. Base on the telephone calls and paper work during the first 30 days following her death, my own estimate is the government will spend in excess of $500 to pay me about half that amount. I hope the cost to me is less than the amount I will collect.

Kent Rhinehart
February 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

Government wants to keep growing itself bigger and bigger, it keeps tripping over itself and can't see the trees for the forest. Government needs to reduce its size and become lean and more efficient. Being smaller would in my oppinion make it easier to pin point the source of many problems.

February 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

For all of you complaining about greedy politicians or them not working, and who pays them for it, has NOTHING to do with this article. It is about GREEDY CITIZENS leaching off of the government! Really, get a grip!

February 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

Perhaps a quick fix would be for all funeral homes to send the name of the deceased and his/her name and social security number to Social Security?

Tom Gearhart
February 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

This is why we are going broke because our goverment has blinders on and they make very poor choices.What ya going to do when the money runs out?No excuse for this type of stupidity.....

February 27, 2013 at 10:50 am

It is actually the person taking care of the finances for the elderly that are responsible for the "over drawing." They don't notify SS that the person died and returned the money for the month they died. It is the greed of the caretakers. Citizen's responsibility is the problem for the theft. Greed.

February 27, 2013 at 9:51 am

Government employees get paid by the Government, no matter if they work or not, you can see this every day in our own communities. We need to set 1/2 of these employees (including the top and the people we vote for into Congress) out on the street to collect only a small amount of unemployment funds for 6 month and then who cares, just like they do with a normal person not working for the Government. By the way, did anyone ever checked the unemployment rates for different areas????? Check Washington DC.

February 27, 2013 at 9:23 am

What really hurts is that not only do these people COLLECT... they also VOTE!!!

Francisco Mesa
February 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

The people got what they deserved, they keep electing a bunch of crooks in the Congress and Senate year after year. These Politician are going there not to serve the American people,just to make a career and enjoy a huges salaries and pension. Now is getting worse, The Federal Goverment is getting bigger and bigger,and the first thing you know, you have no rights,they will control every aspect of your life. believe me, happen in Germany,Russia,China,Cuba,Venezuela,If the conutry keep going in the wrong direction.people will get what they deserve,SLAVERY

February 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

It is pretty simple the people who have been put into office are the ones who have made certain choices and decisions with the PEOPLES money, this started years and years ago with the misuse of money. They wasted money on things that are crazy from bail out people who have made poor business choices and decisions to funding stupid ideas. Now the people are being held responsible because of the choices and decisions that our so called leaders have made. and we have to pay the price. It doesnt matter who you vote for all that matters is what kind of attention and face gets in. Now the people are suffering because of it. The leaders misuse the money-look recently at the ones who have held certain offices and have misuse money from superintendents to political offices of using credit cards and gift cards for their own personal gain instead of applying that to where it really is supposed to go. It comes down to the all mighty dollar and who can have more of it even if it means to lie and cheat and steal. Pure Greed, that is all.