Among the long and growing list of things people are worried about during the coronavirus outbreak, here’s one worry you can cross off your list: your Social Security benefits are not going to be halted or delayed. That’s according to this article recently published on the Motley Fool financial website. However, says reporter Katie Brockman, there are a few coronavirus-related changes you probably should know about – not to mention a new scam to be wary of.
Coronavirus and Social Security: Should Beneficiaries be Worried?
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of society, with millions of Americans being asked to stay home and businesses forced to close their doors,” writes Brockman. Apart from fear of catching the virus – a particular concern to seniors – over 90 percent in a recent survey said they are worried about the effects the pandemic will have on the economy, both at home and worldwide.
“Older Americans who are nearing or have already reached retirement may be facing another concern, though: how COVID-19 could affect Social Security,” says the Motley Fool article. More than 60 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and for about half of all single retirees and one-quarter of couples, these monthly checks make up 90 percent or more of their retirement income. So, should these seniors who are so dependent on Social Security for their monthly living expenses be worried about the coronavirus pandemic bringing their livelihood to a standstill?
Coronavirus and Social Security: Benefits Continue but Help is Harder to Come By
Fortunately, the answer is no. “The good news,” Brockman writes, “is that the Social Security Administration will continue paying out benefits as normal during the coronavirus pandemic.” That means, if you’re already receiving your monthly checks, “there’s no need to worry that you won’t receive your normal benefit amount. However, there are some other Social Security changes to be aware of.”
The first change involves access to in-person face-to-face assistance. If you’re used to being able to visit your local Social Security office, says the Motley Fool article, that option is temporarily off the table. “[The Social Security Administration] has closed its field offices to the public to help slow the spread of the virus. That means if you have a question or need help with your benefits, you’ll either need to call or visit their website to find answers.” Social Security officials are hoping people will avoid using the phone and try to find help online first – that will free up SSA representatives to focus more on individuals who genuinely need to be helped via telephone.
Like the IRS, the Social Security Administration is also cutting you a bit of slack if you were supposed to provide them with some paperwork to initiate service or substantiate a claim, the article states. “The SSA will also be extending deadlines due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you are required to provide certain documentation, you can either do so by mail or wait until the SSA offices reopen.” The Motley Fool article also says that “certain functions will be postponed until further notice, including medical continuing disability reviews and the collection of overpayments.” We’ll be interested to see how that all works out in practice.
Coronavirus and Social Security: The Scammers Come Out of the Woodwork
Naturally, the article warns, as sure as spring follows winter, all of these changes are bringing out the scammers from under their rocks. These fraudsters “have taken advantage of the situation to try to dupe unsuspecting victims.” In one version of the coronavirus scam, beneficiaries receive fraudulent letters alerting them that, due to the pandemic, their benefits are going to be suspended. The letter claims to be from the Social Security Office of the Inspector General, and it provides a phone number to call to get reinstated.
This is nothing more than a means to get unsuspecting callers to provide personal information. Sometimes the scammers are even demanding that their victims send cash in order to continue receiving their monthly checks. “Again,” says Motley Fool, “the SSA is not suspending or withholding benefits because of COVID-19. So, if you receive a letter saying you’re about to lose your benefits, do not respond, but do report it.” This is the link for reporting scams to the Social Security’s Inspector General.
Coronavirus and Social Security: Be Informed and Be Wary
We urge you to share the following with your loved ones to help them avoid the pain – both emotional and financial – of getting caught in a Social Security scam (or any government scam, for that matter):
“To avoid getting scammed, make sure you know what to expect when corresponding with the Social Security Administration,” the article concludes. “The SSA will never ask for payment in the form of cash, gift cards, wire transfers, or prepaid debit cards, for example. Additionally, you’ll never be threatened with arrest or legal action for not paying a fee or a fine, and the SSA will not ask for personally identifiable information via letter or email. If you ever receive a phone call, letter, or email that seems suspicious, hang up, or don’t respond. You can never be too careful, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty among Americans right now, and it’s changing the way millions of people live. While your monthly Social Security checks won’t be affected by COVID-19, it is important to stay up to date on the changes occurring within the SSA. By understanding how to contact the SSA if you have questions and keeping an eye out for scammers, you can rest easy knowing your benefits are safe.
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.fool.com)