The Social Security Administration (SSA), which provides Social Security benefits, can conduct investigations into individuals suspected of fraud. For example, in 2014, the SSA investigated what they believed to be fraudulent Social Security claims by reviewing social media accounts. This investigation allowed law enforcement to arrest 100 suspects.
This type of investigation isn’t exactly spying, though. The SSA doesn’t care what your favorite food is, nor do they care about the name of your dog. They’re only concerned with individuals who they suspect are participating in Social Security fraud. This specific concern limits the scope of their investigations.
During an investigation, they’ll look for information that:
- Suggests an individual has lied about their disability
- Shows that an individual is living well beyond their reported means (i.e. driving expensive cars, frequently dining out, or otherwise showing that their spending considerable amounts of money)
Can The SSA Look At My Social Media Account?
During the 2014 investigation, the SSA did turn to social media to investigate instances of fraud. However, the agency isn’t generally forthcoming about the investigation tactics it uses. A 2020 report does note that the agency has looked to “integrate social media in disability determination”. This section of the report states that the SSA has reviewed social media accounts during investigations but doesn’t say how widespread this practice is.
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What Is A Cooperative Disability Investigation (CDI)?
The CDI program was initially founded in 1997 with the goal of reducing Social Security fraud. Since then, the program has expanded to cover 47 states, including both North and South Carolina. The SSA reports that the CDI program has saved disability programs $86 million.
CDIs are used when the SSA suspects that an individual is partaking in fraudulent behavior. To conduct a CDI, relevant officials will review “statements and activities of claimants, medical providers, and other third parties”. If you’re subject to a CDI, it’s safe to assume that the SSA will monitor your behavior as closely as possible.
Can A CDI Cause My Claim To Be Denied?
If the SSA finds any evidence of fraud during a CDI, they’ll likely deny your benefits application. In these cases, it’s possible to appeal your denial. The SSA has an established four-step appeals process that’s available to most claimants.
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How Can I Appeal A Denied Social Security Claim?
The Social Security appeals process has four steps:
- Reconsideration: A reconsideration is a re-review of your disability application by another SSA employee who wasn’t previously involved in your claim. During a reconsideration, you can submit additional evidence.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing: During an ALJ hearing, a relevant official will review the facts of your case. The official assigned to your case will not have previously reviewed your case prior to the hearing.
- Appeals council: The Appeals Council reviews the ALJ decision for harmful legal error. The Council can deny your claim, approve your claim, or return it to the ALJ level.
- File a civil lawsuit: If none of these steps produce a desirable result, you can file a civil lawsuit. This lawsuit will take place in your nearest federal district court.
It’s important to file your appeal as soon as you can. You typically have 60 days after a Social Security claim to file a decision. Missing this deadline could bar you from filing an appeal. Remember, you’re entitled to legal counsel as you navigate the appeals process.
What Qualifies As Social Security Fraud?
Social Security fraud comes in a range of shapes and sizes. These are a few common types of Social Security fraud:
- Lying about personal information on a claim
- Receiving a deceased person’s benefits
- Telling “white lies” that obfuscate the truth during the application process
- Selling Social Security cards
- Using someone else’s Social Security number
Social Security fraud is a legitimate concern. In a 2020 report, the SSA estimated that they made $7.9 billion in improper payments. Improper payments are a broad category and include instances of:
- Overpaying beneficiaries
- Paying benefits to a deceased person
- Payments to unqualified beneficiaries, which fraud can cause
What Can I Do To Avoid Fraud?
The SSA recommends taking these precautions to avoid Social Security fraud:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet
- Refrain from saying your Social Security number out loud in public
- Be cognizant of phishing scams
The SSA notes that phishing scams can be identified by contrasting them with standard SSA procedures. The SSA will never:
- Make threats
- Suspend access to your Social Security number
- Ask for payment with a gift card, wire transfer, mailed cash, or cryptocurrency
- Promise improved benefits in exchange for payment
If a phone number or person contacts you and partakes in any of this behavior, it’s likely that they’re trying to scam you. In these cases, it’s best to contact relevant authorities to protect potential future victims from fraud.
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Connect With A Social Security Lawyer Today
Do you have further questions about Social Security investigations? Our team of Social Security disability lawyers can help. We’ve worked on many Social Security claims for our clients. We’re familiar with the claims process and understand the consequences of a CDI investigation.
Similarly, if you’re dealing with a denied claim, our team can support you. We can act as your legal representative during the appeals process. Call our offices for a free no-obligation case review today.