A man in Fresno California was recently arrested for collecting more than $200,000 in Social Security benefits that were being paid to a woman who passed away in 1988. The man apparently was a friend of the deceased and shared a checking account with her, which facilitated the fraud. He has plead not guilty to the charges.
Incidents such as this are covered by the popular media every so often, and never once has the story ended with Social Security getting their money back. I imagine that this story will end the same way.
The question then becomes, what can be done about this, and it this an isolated case or are there numerous cases like this being perpetrated around the country? It would seem that there are some simple solutions that could at least manage the fraud to a level lower than 22 years of deceit. Though Social Security is notoriously overworked, requiring Claimants to check in every 3-5 years would be reasonable, and such a practice could even be automated with biometrics (though privacy advocates would have a field day with this one). Even if not automated, making benefits contingent on a visit to the local Social Security office every 3-5 years with a picture ID would help prevent fraud cases such as these from occurring at relatively small cost to the government.
For questions about Social Security, contact Thomas O'Brien at Feiler & Associates.