New Social Security scam uses online site to bilk seniors out of money

A new kind of Social Security scam has left beneficiaries wondering where their money is.

Pills and bills eat up 71-year-old Patricia Bell's monthly Social Security check.

"Without Social Security, we'd have nothing," Bell said. 

When she got a letter in the mail saying she had created an online account on Social Security's website, she called her son.

"Right then, I stopped, I said, I didn't do this," said Bell.

But someone had, stealing her personal information, including her Social Security number, WPTV reported. 

"I have no idea how they did that, " said Bell.

Someone used Social Security's new online system to change her direct deposit information.

They redirected her $1,200 check to themselves.

"Whoever is doing this is preying on the weak and the people that are just absolutely dependent on that little bit of change they get every month, that they worked their entire lives for," said Bob Reeves, Bell's son.

It's happening to thousands of people.

Crooks steal your personal information, usually with a phone or impersonation scam.

Then they change your direct deposit information in person either at a Social Security office or a bank.

But crooks can also use computers, as they did to Bell.

They steal personal information and use Social Security's new online system to create an account in your name.

Then, they have easy access to change your bank account info.

The Social Security Administration says there have been 2,400 victims nationwide.

It's going to be a long week for Bell.

She won't get a replacement check until next Thursday.

She's speaking up to help others.

"To me it's scary, because I think, well, are they going to do it again?" she said.

The SSA says an internal audit is underway of the online system to determine how much money has been taken and how it can be prevented in the future.

Here's how to protect yourself:

- Protect personal information

- Set up your online Social Security account before someone else does

- Preemptively block direct deposit changes

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