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Equifax Resurfacing – 

Now, here is a story. This past year a CPA age 67 who decided to delay his Social Security benefit to age 70 received a letter congratulating him on initiating his Social Security benefits. When the CPA dug into the matter, he found out that a hacker had received $19,236 of his benefits.

How did this happen? The hacker was clever, individuals who have reached full retirement age but have not applied for benefits are eligible to receive a retroactive payment from Social Security of up to 6 months of payments. Let’s dig deeper…

If you have a Social Security online account, you can see your current statement, update your address & phone number, and change direct deposit of your benefit payment. A text and email with a secure access code goes to your email address and your cell phone when you log in. This protects you in the log in process. However, there is an unsecure web site where you can apply for benefits, the Social Security/Medicare Benefit application web link. The email and text protection are not in place for this web site.

Now assuming the hacker got the CPA’s personal information from the Equifax hack, he had everything he needed for identity impersonation. On this unsecure web site, the hacker changed one digit of the CPA’s phone number, entered a fake email address, set up direct deposit to a bank prepaid card, and applied for benefits. What he could not do was change the mailing address on the account. However, for the time between Social Security mailing a startup of benefits letter to the CPA and the 11 days it took to get to his home, the hacker walked off with 6 months of benefits.

What can you do protect yourself? Make sure you have a log in and password for your Social Security account. At least this way, if you keep your address current, you are going to get a letter if a hacker accesses your benefits. However, you will most likely find yourself in the CPA’s shoes with a 1099 form from Social Security and a fight with the IRS about income you did not receive and a meeting with Social Security to ensure your planned benefit plan stays intact.

If this does happen to you, make an appointment with Social Security immediately to address it.  Makes you wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg with the Equifax hack.  Looking for assistance? My contact information is listed below.

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Peter B. Smith is a Family Wealth Advisor at the Planning Solutions Group in Fulton, MD and is an Annapolis resident. He can be reached at 301-543-6008 or by email at