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Susan Tompor: Social Security benefits stolen by hackers, leaving families with bill

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Shambo made his ID theft public with a cautionary tale in a blog on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants site.

"Anybody 62 and older who hasn't started benefits is exposed," Shambo said.

Just how big the problem could become is unknown. The Social Security Administration has downplayed the threat.

"Our antifraud activities identify attempts and make this type of activity you are asking about very rare," Eric Martinez, deputy regional communications director for the Social Security Administration's regional office in Chicago, told me in an e-mail.

Shambo is convinced that the Equifax hacking incident -- where hackers got access to the data sometime from May 2017 through July 2017 -- contributed to the fraud.

But again, many hacking incidents have taken place over the years, so it's hard to know exactly how your data was stolen.

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For the first time ever, Social Security numbers eclipsed credit card numbers as the most breached piece of personal information in 2017, according to a report on identity fraud by Javelin Strategy & Research.

About 35 percent of breach victims reported that their Social Security number was among the data compromised, compared with 30 percent with stolen credit card information.

A big data breach isn't the only way to get Social Security numbers. Consumer watchdogs warned in February that con artists claiming to be from Social Security were trying to trick people in various parts of the country into sharing their Social Security numbers over the phone and through a website. Callers claim a computer glitch requires them to ask individuals for Social Security numbers.

The Sagerts said a false tax return using their ID was filed about three or four years ago. And now, they're dealing with this Social Security mess.


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