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Inspector General Warns About New Twist To Social Security Fraud Phone Call Scams

Social Security Fraud Calls RisingSocial Security phone call scams are the #1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security. Over the past year, these scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed.

Latest Twist To Social Security Fraud Scams


Telephone scammers may send fake documents by email to convince victims to comply with their demands. The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of victims who received emails with attached letters and reports that appeared to be from Social Security or Social Security OIG. The letters may use official letterhead and government “jargon” to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

This is the latest variation on Social Security phone scams, which continue to be widespread throughout the United States. Using robocalls or live callers, fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim there is identity theft or another problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits. They may threaten arrest or other legal action or may offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They often demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency such as Bitcoin, or pre-paid debit card.

How To Identify Social Security Fraud Calls & Scams

Inspector General Ennis urges continued vigilance against all types of Social Security phone scams no matter what “proof” callers may offer. As we continue to increase public awareness of SSA phone scams, criminals will come up with new ways to convince people of their legitimacy. Social Security will never:

  • threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee;
  • promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
  • require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card; or
  • send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

How To Report Social Security Fraud Calls

The Social Security Administration encourages you to use the new online form to report Social Security phone scams to disrupt the scammers and help us reduce this type of fraud, and reduce the number of Social Security fraud call victims.

Please be aware that there has been a significant rise in “Social Security Phone Scams” in 2019. Fraudsters are calling individuals with a variety of claims in an effort to people to divulge private information such as Social Security Numbers.

Other phone scams claim that individuals are in trouble with an agency such as the police or IRS in an attempt to scare people into divulging private information or even sending money to resolve the “issue”.



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Once an applicant is approved to receive Social Security disability benefits, they might try to go back to work. A trial work period is given by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to those who are taking home benefit checks to encourage them to go back into the job market.

A trial work period spans for a complete 9 months. During this window, designated applicants will still receive a monthly check by the SSA, but once the trial work period has ended your benefits may be suspended.

Keep in mind, a trial work period spans for 9 months, yet only the months where you bring home more than $850 a month contributes toward your trial work period. This number is evaluated and adjusted each year by the SSA. So it is important that you verify your salary before beginning any form of work.

Also, the months that contribute to your trial work period are not required to be consecutive. Which means any months out of the 60-month calendar, which is used by the SSA to determine trial work periods, may contribute towards your trial work period of 9 months.

Once Your Trial Work Period Is Over

Once your trial work period has been fulfilled by nine eligible months, the SSA will evaluate your earnings record to make sure you that you maintained substantial gainful activity (SGA) during the period. This practically means that the SSA will be able to know if the work you completed earned you enough income to sustain yourself.

The SSA defines substantial gainful activity as income at or above a particular threshold. That amount is reviewed and possibly adjusted each year to compensate for inflation and changes in the cost of living. The 2018 SGA threshold is $1,180 each month for a non-blind, single recipient of Social Security disability benefits.

If your average earnings during your trial work period meet or exceed the set SGA limit, then the SSA will suspend your Social Security disability benefits. However, if you managed to earn below the set SGA amount, then you will continue to receive monthly benefits from the SSA.

What Is An Extended Period of Eligibility?

If you continue to receive monthly disability benefits and are able to perform expected work duties, then you will qualify for an extended period of eligibility or EPE. This window, which consists of 36 months after you’ve ended your trial work period, will allow you to maintain eligibility for disability benefits. However, your monthly earned income during your EPE will determine if you will continue to be paid monthly disability benefit checks by the SSA.

Specifically, during the 36-month span after finishing your trial work period, any month where your monthly income met or exceeded the SGA limit will result in the SSA not providing you a disability benefit check. However, if you’re able to earn an income that is below the limit, then you will continue to receive the expected disability benefit amount for that month.

After your 36-month EPE, you will continue to receive disability benefits as long as you do not meet or exceed the SGA threshold. This means that if you earned more than the SGA threshold during month 42, then the SSA will suspend your disability benefits, even if you do not exceed the SGA threshold during any following months.

If you become disabled after the end of your EPE, you may apply for expedited reinstatement of benefits, under the condition that it has been less than 5 years since you last received a disability benefit check. If it’s been longer than 5 years since you were last receiving SSD benefits, then you will need to complete and file a brand new application for Social Security disability benefits if you become disabled again.

How Does The Social Security Administration Define A Disability?

If you wish to qualify to earn Social Security disability benefits, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your condition must be considered severe. Not every condition is automatically viewed as severe. While severity is somewhat subjective, the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically distinguishes severe from non-severe by determining if the condition substantially impairs someone’s ability to complete normal daily tasks. This is measured in adults by evaluating their ability to complete work requirements. Whereas in children, the SSA evaluates their ability to complete daily tasks that otherwise healthy same age children should be able to perform.
  • Your condition has to last at least one year or result in death. 12 months is the minimum duration that a condition must last to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSA). If your condition is considered severe and disabling but won’t last at least 12 months, you will not be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. SSD benefits are meant to provide financial assistance to those with permanent disabling conditions, so this requirement is stringent.
  • Your condition has to result in sufficient physical or mental limitation or even both so that the individual cannot complete work from a previous occupation (any past work completed within the last 15 years). It must also be severe to the point where the individual is unable to perform normal responsibilities for a different occupation.

If you meet each of these requirements, it’s very likely that you will be able to receive Social Security disability benefits successfully. Most applicants are denied during the initial application and reconsideration stage, primarily due to the consensus that the applicant can work a previous job or another occupation suited to their condition. If the SSA determines that you are in fact able to complete work outside of your current occupation, then it is unlikely that they will further consider your case.

However, if you make it to the court hearing stage, you may be able to defend your case to the court rather than the solely the SSA. Even if you do not have a lawyer, you may still choose to present your another form to the court and challenge the SSA’s decision on your ability to complete another form of work.

Objecting to the SSA’s ruling will require a well documented work history for the past 15 years as well as strong knowledge regarding commonly discussed concepts like substantial gainful activity (SGA), unsuccessful work attempts, work skills transferability, and several medical-vocation guidelines which are utilized to determine if you are disabled or not depending on several factors. Naturally, it’s highly recommended you have a professional Social Security disability lawyer to represent you in court and help you strengthen your claim to increase your chances of winning the favor of the court.

What Do I Need to Qualify For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

The criteria that are necessary to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are more strict than the requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Eligibility for SSDI benefits requires that you meet each of the following criteria:

  • Work an occupation that the Social Security Administration covers
  • Work an eligible occupation for at least 5 of the past 10 years
  • Possess a medical condition that is severe enough to prevent you from working and satisfies the SSA’s definition of disability.

Most SSDI applicants are denied because they have not fulfilled the requirement where you must work five of the past ten years. There is still hope; if you don’t happen to fulfill each of the SSA’s requirements to earn SSDI benefits, you could still qualify for SSI benefits. Also note, the five of the past ten years requirement is on a case to case basis, as you may not have to work that long to qualify if you are a younger individual.

If you are a younger adult who became disabled at 19, naturally you will not be able to collect the same amount of work credits as a 65-year-old adult. You may only need 1-2 years of work credits to qualify for SSDI, depending on your age and the actual amount of work credits earned.

Another component of SSDI is that you need to work an occupation that pays into Social Security through certain taxes. SSDI is funded from select taxes, so if you haven’t paid into Social Security, you will not be able to earn SSDI benefits.

What Do I Need To Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a Social Security disability program provided to those with a disabling condition and don’t earn enough money to be considered as substantial gainful activity. Some circumstances allow 65-year-old applicants to qualify for SSI even if they are not entirely disabled according to the SSA’s total disability guidelines.

For those younger than 65 years, it is required that you provide substantial evidence that you are entirely disabled and do not possess any other means of revenue to support yourself if you wish to qualify for SSI benefits. You will need to be able to provide evidence that shows not only that your disability prevents you from completing your current work, but ANY potential occupations.

SSI has a financial requirement that you cannot possess more than $2,000 worth of total countable assets. However, if you are married, you may jointly possess up to $3,000 in countable assets. Countable assets are anything of value that you posses excluding your home and one vehicle. Your assets could include money in savings and checking accounts, IRAs, and other retirement accounts, cash value in life insurance plans, vehicles (other than the primary vehicle), and practically anything else with a dollar value.

If you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled in addition to providing proof that you’re in financial need (possessing no more than $2,000 in assets), you may be eligible for SSI benefits.

If you wish to submit an application for Supplemental Security Income, you can speed up the application process by completing a considerable chunk of your application online. You may also contact the Social Security Administration at their toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment to meet with a Social Security representative.

If you are a disabled adult looking to apply for both SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance, you may apply online for both benefits simultaneously if you meet the following conditions:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 65;
  • Have never been married;
  • Aren’t blind;
  • Are a U.S. citizen residing in one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and
  • Haven’t applied for or received SSI benefits in the past.

If you’re unable to apply for SSI online, you can instead contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment, either in person or via telephone, with a Social Security representative.  Parents or guardians typically can apply for blind or disabled children under age 18. In certain situations, some third parties can apply for children.

It’s recommended you have the necessary documents when you go to submit an application. Regardless if you don’t have everything at hand, it’s best to apply anyway. The SSA can help acquire anything you need. Necessary documents include:

  • Your Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number;
  • Your birth certificate or other proof of your age;
  • Information about the home where you reside, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name;
  • Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own;
  • The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that you have been to, if you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status; and
  • Your checkbook or other papers that show your bank, credit union, or savings and loan account number

If your application is approved for SSI, you have to get your benefits electronically. The SSA provides benefits through direct deposit, the Direct Express® card program, or an Electronic Transfer Account.

A note for people who are blind or disabled

If you are blind or disabled, and currently working, there are certain rules in place to assist you. It is possible to receive SSI benefits while you’re employed. As your earnings increase, your SSI payments will be reduced or stopped proportionately, but you may able to maintain your Medicaid coverage. You could also save some money on the side for a work goal or to attend school. In this situation, the money you put aside will not reduce your SSI benefits. Blind or disabled people who submit an application for SSI could get free special services to assist them while working. These services could be counseling, job training, or help finding a job.