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Here’s why readers should open an online social security account ASAP

June 2, 2020

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Journalists head to a pair of primary online sources for information on company finances. (Image by Coyot via Pixabay)
Journalists head to a pair of primary online sources for information on company finances. (Image by Coyot via Pixabay)

The conventional wisdom, from federal agencies to financial planners, is to wait until the age of 70 to start collecting benefits. There’s obvious upside potential, with benefits adding eight percent for every year a beneficiary waits after reaching their full retirement age.

But increasingly, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), cyber thieves have figured out how to tap into Social Security accounts online and start collecting benefits early, in place of a bonafide beneficiary.

Statistics are hard to pin down but, according to the Association of American Retired Persons (AARP), from February 2013 to February 2016, 58,000 allegations of fraud related to online Social Security accounts were reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA)

That’s a drop in the bucket of the 34 million Social Security payments the IRS processes every month, but a troubling trend nonetheless in an era increasingly marked by breaches in database security. Report this story ASAP, to alert readers 18 and over—especially those most at risk, from the ages of t62 to 70—by developing these three stories:

Step #1: Set up an online SSA account at 18

Yes, that’s correct: The SSA allows future beneficiaries to create an online account at 18. An active online account allows future beneficiaries to check their earnings record and monitor accounts for any suspicious activity. Future beneficiaries can open an online account here.

Launch a discussion with readers about setting up an online account. Include a range of ages, starting at 18. 

Step #2: Add extra security to protect from identity theft

The money piling up in SSA accounts is an incentive, but the big prize for thieves is identity theft, which is why experts advise Americans 18 and over to check their accounts once a month for suspicious activity. Adding a second step for verification, such as sending a one-time code to a cellphone or an email address, protects accounts from unauthorized use. The 2017 data breach by credit monitoring agency Equifax compromised the Social Security numbers of 143 million Americans—half the U.S. population. 

In their 2018 report on security breaches, Javelin Strategy & Research found that Social Security numbers were compromised more than credit cards. A good source for statistics is the Identity Theft Resource Center, which has been tracking identity theft since 2005.

Step #3: Focus in on readers 62 to 70

Contact the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who wrote this blog for his association, or search for a financial professional in your reporting area who had a similar experience and tell their story. Readers from 62 to 70 are particularly vulnerable to online theft, as the blog describes. 

See if you can locate any victims in this age group in your reporting area and tell their story(ies).


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

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