Margenau_Tom

Before I get to today’s questions, I must point out a phone scam that is currently going on that involves Social Security. Quite a few readers have reported this scam to me. And then just this week, I was a victim, too. Here is the message that all the readers and I heard on our phones:

“This call is from the Department of Social Security. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your Social Security number because we found some suspicious activity. So if you want to know about this case, just press one. Thank you.”

There are clues in these kinds of phony communications that let you know right away that they are a scam.

For example, a recent email I allegedly got from my bank told me they were shutting down my checking account because of some “suspicious activity.” But the email began with this sentence: “We are regretting to inform you of a problem with your checking account.” That awkward sentence structure (“We are regretting to inform you...”) was a dead giveaway that the email was a hoax. There is simply no way a large financial institution would have released an email with that kind of sloppy syntax.

Here is another email I received, supposedly from my cable and internet provider: “It is with solemn sadness that we must suspend your cable service because of a problem. Please respond with promptness by clicking here.” Come on, guys. “Solemn sadness?” “Promptness?” I knew right away that this email didn’t come from my cable company. Instead, I pictured some kid who speaks broken English sitting in a back room of his mother’s apartment somewhere in Moscow using an online thesaurus to come up with what he thinks are impressive and legitimate sounding words for fake emails that he sends to unsuspecting Americans.

Anyway, let’s get to that alleged message about Social Security. First of all, I can tell you that the Social Security Administration would never call someone in a situation like this. They always would send a letter.

The second giveaway that the message was a hoax was how it referred to SSA. It is known as the Social Security Administration, not “the department of Social Security.” I know that SSA is not a familiar government agency abbreviation like the FBI or IRS. I mean, if you received a phone call from someone alleging to be from the Federal Department of Investigation or the Internal Revenue Agency, you’d know right away that it was hoax, In the same manner, the “department of Social Security” is a suspicious slip-up.

The third issue with the message is another syntax problem. An official government message would never use the phrase “to inform you that we just suspend your Social Security number.” The proper phrasing would of course be, “just suspended.”

Finally, if you could hear the actual message, you might laugh. It sounds so computerized, very fake and very phony.

So if you get that message on your phone from the “department of Social Security,” have a good laugh and then delete it! Now on to today’s questions.

Q: A couple days ago, a check from Social Security suddenly showed up in my bank account. It’s not my monthly Social Security check. It’s something extra. I called Social Security and, frankly, they were no help. Do you have any idea what it is?

A: I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Patience is a virtue.” Well, I’m going to tell you to be patient. Whenever SSA owes someone money, they always send out the check right away. At the same time, they send a letter explaining what the check is all about. Of course, the “check” isn’t really a paper check that’s mailed to you. It’s an electronic transfer of funds to your bank account. And that is pretty much an instantaneous transaction. But the letter you get is just that: a piece of paper sent through the mail. So the letter has to be prepared and then it has to be mailed to you. I’m guessing it will show up in your mailbox in about 10 days.

Q: We’ve always received our Social Security checks on Wednesdays. Mine on the second Wednesday of the month, and my husband’s on the fourth Wednesday. But for the last couple months, they’ve not shown up in our bank account until the second and fourth Friday. I tried calling Social Security, but got put on hold for 45 minutes and finally gave up. Has there been a change in the check delivery dates?

A: There has been no change. My guess is the problem is with your bank and not with Social Security. I suggest you talk to someone at your bank first to see if you can find out what is going on. If that doesn’t work, you’ll just have to be patient and wait.

Q: Your answer to the couple who have a child with severe physical and mental problems since birth was correct but incomplete. You told the husband who was about to turn 62 to consider filing for his Social Security retirement benefits right away in order to get the extra monthly benefits for his son and wife. But the primary reason that a retiree who has a disabled child should collect Social Security at 62 is that doing so starts a 24-month period at the end of which that child will be entitled to Medicare. That insurance will survive the retiree. In addition, the child’s home state will likely enroll the child in Medicaid for the 24-month interim period, and once the 24-month period passes, the home state will pay the Part B Medicare insurance premium.

I realize that your column is about Social Security, but here there is closely related and essential information that your readers should have. Please let your readers know the rest of the story.

A: Well, now I don’t need to because you just did. Thanks.