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Volume 9 Issue 3 - July 2008

FYI: Misleading Internet Websites

Recently, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at SSA has received complaints from Social Security applicants who believed that personal information they provided to the Social Security Administration had somehow been disclosed, without their permission, to claimant representative firms.

An OIG investigation revealed that instead, while the applicants believed they were visiting the Social Security Administration’s official website, they were instead visiting privately-owned websites designed to appear to be that of the Social Security Administration. Some of the misleading characteristics of these websites include: official-sounding website addresses; links which users could click on to (purportedly) apply for benefits; and the use of patriotic and/or governmental symbols, such as the American flag.

The Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General are concerned that some applicants who mistakenly visited these websites believed they were applying for benefits online with SSA. The Office of the Inspector General has taken action under Section 1140 of the Social Security Act to stop the owners of these and similar websites from misleading the public in this fashion.

If a person has questions about Social Security benefits or programs, he or she should contact Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit Social Security’s official website at www.socialsecurity.gov. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)