A federal investigation named “Operation Walking Dead” has uncovered 18 Floridians who are charged with stealing more than $1 million in benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). A report published by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) states that the suspected perpetrators accomplished the alleged fraud in variety of ways.

The most common manner in which the majority of the accused allegedly gained access to benefits they were not entitled to was through the unreported death of a loved one. The OIG stated that nearly $696,000 in fraud was due to this reason. (If the SSA doesn’t have a death record in the Death Master File, then the payments keep on coming each month.)

The next most common way that SSA benefits allegedly were stolen was by simply lying. One individual claimed she did not receive her monthly benefits payment. The SSA promptly issued a paper replacement check. This woman is accused of using the account number from the check to open up a fraudulent account under that number and then wrote personal checks against the Social Security account. Other individuals neglected to tell the truth about their eligibility by lying about their marital status, living arrangements or household income.

Child custody arrangements may also have been another front for raking in the extra unearned benefits. There were a couple of parents mentioned who allegedly collected payments intended to support and care for their child; however, the child was purportedly living with the other parent.

It is important to remember that all of these individuals are presumed innocent unless found guilty. However, the report states that the penalty for stealing Social Security benefits or making false statements is up to 10 years in federal prison for each count. One thing is for certain, the Social Security Administration intent is on sweeping up fraud so that qualified beneficiaries get what they deserve.

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