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Social Security Disability fraud becomes hot new focus for agency

Social Security has a fraud problem.

As a result, the Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, has plans to develop three new fraud units that are designed to root out corruption among disability recipients. The idea will be to detect people who are collecting benefits even though they aren't really disabled -- defrauding the government in the process and making it harder for those who are legitimately disabled to receive benefits.

However, it's important to remember that most people who file for Social Security Disability benefits are legitimately in need. In fact, many of those people are financially vulnerable and likely to become the targets of thieves themselves.

With that in mind, here are is the advice that experts offer beneficiaries about how to stay safe -- along with some tips on how to stay under OIG's radar and avoid an unnecessary investigation:

1. Don't give strange callers your information

Claims representatives never contact beneficiaries by phone unless there is a scheduled appointment. If you receive an unexpected call from someone purporting to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA), be suspicious. Even if the person on the other end tells you that your benefits are about to stop or accuses you of suspected wrongdoing, don't give out your private information. Scammers try to scare people into giving up personal information by panicking them so that they don't think clearly.

2. Set up an online account with the agency

You can set up a private account online through SSA.gov that allows you to monitor your own Social Security Disability (SSD) information. You can see if there are any notices you have recently been sent -- including action that's been taken to change the amount of your check or suspend payment. It's a lot harder for someone to fool you -- or scare you -- if you can go online and look at the payments you are due for yourself.

3. Keep up with your reporting obligations

You won't have to worry about a fraud investigation if you promptly report any significant changes to SSD recipients generally need to report any work activity, educational certificates and improvements in their medical condition that would allow them to return to work.

If you do these three things, you have nothing to fear -- not from scammers and certainly not from the Office of the Inspector General.

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