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Susan Tompor: Social Security sent out some wrong estimates. What you need to know

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

-- Were born in 1955, 1956, or 1957.

-- Were age 62 or older at the time of their request.

-- Indicated on the SSA-7004 that they planned to stop working at age 66.

Consumers who received wrong estimates will be sent corrected information. Social Security said it had temporarily stopped issuing statements requested via Form 7004 as of late June. But the agency will resume sending On Request statements by mail now that the system has been fixed.

Kotlikoff -- who received an email from Social Security about the mistakes in early August -- said he's still trying to figure out how the mistakes ended up on the statements.

"I don't understand how this happened because it's a uniform report," Kotlikoff said.

He noted that he never heard of different reporting systems -- say getting an online statement vs. requesting a paper statement -- offering different results for people.

"This sounds very bizarre," Kotlifkoff said.

To be sure, most people aren't getting their statements via paper requests. Even so, you want to realize that mistakes can happen and pay attention along the way.

What are some good practices when it comes to Social Security?

Reviewing online may save you hassles

Social Security prefers that people create a my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount to view and print a personalized statement.

You want to set up one of those accounts even long before you plan to retire, said Joel Eskovitz, senior policy advisor for the AARP Public Policy Institute.

The online account allows you to receive personalized estimates of future benefits based on your real earnings, see your latest statement, and review your earnings history.

Eskovitz said you want to make sure that you check your earnings history regularly while you're working so that you can correct any mistakes early in the process.

The last thing you want to do when you're trying to claim Social Security benefits is go back 20 years to try to fix a mistake in your earnings report, he said.

Try out some Social Security calculators

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AARP, for example, has its own resource center at www.aarp.org/SocialSecurity.

The free calculator at the AARP site can help you figure out when you might want to claim Social Security benefits. You would need an estimate from Social Security to help with the calculations.

The Social Security Administration has an online retirement estimator. Remember, the amount you receive will vary from estimates for a variety of factors including the fact that your earnings could increase or decrease in the future.

Another online product called Maximize My Social Security, which is marketed by Kotlikoff, costs $40 a year for households. The website also offers a way to ask questions about Social Security called "Ask Larry." The site also lists some questions and answers given to other consumers.

Avoid Social Security impostors

Scams that attempt to steal your Social Security information remain hot.

The Federal Trade Commission has seen a dramatic increase in reports from consumers that fraudsters are calling to say their Social Security numbers are connected to a crime and their bank accounts will be frozen or seized.

The FTC received more than 72,000 reports year to date from Jan. 1 through June 30 from consumers about Social Security scams. The reported losses from these scams hit $16.9 million. The trend has accelerated in the first few months of 2019, according to an FTC alert. The median loss: $1,295.

Of those consumers who reported a Social Security impostor scam to the FTC, 3.9% reported losing money as of June 30, 2019.

The call might even look like it's from Social Security on your caller ID. Don't fall for it.

If you receive a suspicious call, you may report that information to Social Security online at oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security fraud hotline at 800-269-0271. The FTC also has a new site specifically for Social Security-related scams at identitytheft.gov/ssa where you can find tips and report complaints.

About The Writer

Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at stompor@freepress.com.

(c)2019 Detroit Free Press

Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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