Disabled Vietnam War veteran William Combs first noticed a missing veteran’s disability benefits check. Then his tax return went missing, and most recently a Social Security disability payment disappeared.

Combs is where identity thieves reroute government benefits to their own bank and debit accounts.  With just a full name, address and bank information, thieves contact the Social Security Administration and change the payment information to their own address, bank or debit card.

“My landlady is going to kick me out…I went a whole month with nothing to eat but peanut butter and crackers,” Combs, of Brookville, Ohio, told CNN. “I had to take a loan from a credit union to pay rent one month, and I had to borrow money from my daughter to pay rent the other months—and that’s the last thing in the world you should do. I was crying when I asked her.”

Combs reached out to IDentity Theft 911, which helped him recover from such a damaging attack. He has since received his tax return, $2,000 in Social Security payments, and he’s waiting on another $5,400 in Veteran’s disability payments.

Reports of benefits being rerouted have gone up in the last year, based on calls to IDentity Theft 911’s Fraud Resolution Center. The five most recent cases happened this summer. The crime targets the elderly and disabled, like Combs.

“From what I put together the crooks are mailing or faxing direct deposit forms to the SSA and, requesting a change of deposit, they provide the routing number and checking account information available, and the following deposit is sent to the debit card,” said Mark Fullbright, a senior fraud investigator at IDentity Theft 911. “I believe they have access to tax information and used this data to ‘double dip’ into Social Security benefits. Most of my customers received letters from the SSA advising them of the transfer after it’s already been done.”

Fullbright recommends all Social Security recipients request “No-Change” status on their benefits, a block that will prevent any changes to the account except those made in person. Simply call or visit your local Social Security office to get the process started.

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