By Tonie Garcia
Social Security District Manager in Portsmouth, OH
In July, with American flags flying, we celebrate our nation’s birthday and the freedoms and protections we hold dear. Although love for your country can take many forms, Social Security takes preventing and combatting fraud as seriously as we take our other vital missions.
Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. In tandem with local law enforcement, we pursue criminals who cheat the system by collecting benefits that they’re not owed. This might be as subtle as someone intentionally failing to report income and resources or that they live with their spouse which can result in incorrect payments. Fraud might take the form of someone claiming to be disabled when, in reality, they continue to work. These examples are why we also rely on you — the American public — to report fraud when you see it.
While we can’t prevent every instance of fraud any more than the most effective law enforcement agency can prevent all crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who try to cheat and steal from the system. Our message to those who would defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore the money you’ve stolen from the American people.
We impose stiff penalties to discourage people from committing fraud. We monitor cases closely, and we have sophisticated tools to help us predict where and when fraud may occur so we can catch it early — often before it happens.
Social Security employs innovative weapons in the fight against fraud. Our Office of Anti-Fraud Programs (OAFP) is the newest member of Social Security’s anti-fraud team. Established in November 2014, the mission of OAFP is to coordinate all the agency’s efforts to efficiently and effectively detect, deter, and mitigate fraud, waste, and abuse of our programs.
OAFP works closely with our Office of the Inspector General to ensure that there are consequences for those who commit fraud — even if the act isn’t prosecuted.
Social Security takes fraud seriously, and so should you. In the same way that you might keep a keen eye out for suspicious activity that might harm our nation, we encourage you to keep an eye out for potential Social Security fraud. Some of our most vulnerable citizens — the elderly, disabled children and war veterans, as well as the chronically ill — are counting on you. If you suspect someone is committing Social Security fraud, report it online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.