The advertisements are everywhere: On television, in newspapers, magazines and online. Many consumers who are thinking about the possibility of going on disability or Social Security look to attorneys to help them. However, after a monumental scam pulled off by Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn, both legislators and consumers now have cause for concern.
Conn was arrested last year on multiple charges of Social Security and SSDI fraud that totaled more than 550 million dollars. He did it by illegally paying off a judge and by taking advantage of those who were most in need.
When the authorities discovered Conn’s scam, 1700 people who had been his clients were thrown off of SSDI. Some of these former clients are now desperately trying to get back the benefits. Because the Social Security Administration is also working with law enforcement and other state and federal government entities, it is very likely that these and future applicants will face increased scrutiny and delays.
According to SSDI attorney Jason Baril of Social Security Law Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, “There will always those who will try to take advantage of people when they’re vulnerable. However, there are a number of ways that people can protect themselves from scammers.” Here are a just a few of the ways to keep the bad actors away from your benefits.
- Keep your personal documents secure – Armed with just enough of your personal information, identity thieves can cause a lot of headaches by pretending to be you. The best way to prevent this is to keep this information under lock and key in a home safe or in a safety deposit box at the bank. Invest in a paper shredder before putting discarded mail in the trash. It should also be able to destroy expired credit and other ID cards to keep them out of the hands of identity thieves.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or in a text – Even if a text or email looks authentic, never send your SSN, bank account numbers or anything else electronically or give them over the phone. Most credit card companies, banks, and credit unions can also make use of two-factor identification. This extra step ensures that even in case thieves have your password, they are likely unable to have a randomly generated code that is sent separately to your cell phone or personal email address.
- Avoid those who ask for money up front – The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines regarding the compensation of lawyers who represent those applying for benefits. Be suspicious of any attorney who makes claims of sure-fire success or asks for money to be held in escrow until your case is settled. If you do suspect a scam, call the Inspector General’s Office at (800) 269-0271.