Don’t Fall Victim to Identity Theft While Applying for Disability Benefits

June 2, 2016

The Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission recently issued warnings for people to be on the lookout for identity thieves seeking personal information in connection with disability benefit applications.

These criminals will typically call their victims and pretend to work for an agency that can help them apply for disability benefits.  In some cases, callers even claim to represent the Social Security Administration itself.  Once the targets believe they are speaking with a legitimate agency, the scammers convince them to provide their personal information, like Social Security numbers and dates of birth, over the phone or via email.  Criminals then use this information to access victims’ bank accounts and other financial information.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends never, ever giving out your Social Security number to anyone who calls you, even if you actually have a disability application pending.  In addition, callers who pressure you or insist on receiving money in exchange for assistance are likely attempting to steal from you.

If you think that you might have been victimized by identity thieves, or if you are receiving strange phone calls that don’t appear to be legitimate, contact your special needs planner immediately.  You can also get in touch with the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

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What Is Undue Influence?

Saying that there has been “undue influence” is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but what does it mean?

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his or her wishes and to the benefit of the influencer or the influencer’s friends. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats, or isolation. Often the influencer separates the individual from their loved ones in order to coerce. The elderly and infirm are usually more susceptible to undue influence.

To prove a loved one was subject to undue influence in drafting an estate plan, you have to show that the loved one disposed of his or her property in a way that was unexpected under the circumstances, that he or she is susceptible to undue influence (because of illness, age, frailty, or a special relationship with the influencer), and that the person who exerted the influence had the opportunity to do so. Generally, the burden of proving undue influence is on the person asserting undue influence. However, if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with your loved one, the burden may be on the influencer to prove that there was no undue influence. People who have a fiduciary relationship can include a child, a spouse, or an agent under a power of attorney. For more information on contesting a will, go here.

When drawing up a will or estate plan, it is important to avoid even the appearance of undue influence. For example, if you are planning on leaving everything to your daughter who is also your primary caregiver, your other children may argue that your daughter took advantage of her position to influence you. To avoid the appearance of undue influence, do not involve any family members who are inheriting under your will in drafting your will. Family members should not be present when you discuss the will with your attorney or when you sign it. To be totally safe, family members shouldn’t even drive or accompany you to the attorney’s office. You can also get a formal assessment of your mental capabilities done by a medical professional before you draft estate planning documents. For more information on preventing a will contest, go here.

July 14, 2016

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