Q: I've just learned about the "my Social Security" online service that can help me track my Social Security benefits. I received an email to sign up. Is there anything I should know?
A: For those who receive benefits or have Medicare, "my Social Security" can help check estimates of your retirement, disability and survivor's benefits, your earnings record and the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you've paid.
However, you should be suspicious of any emails sent to you.
The my Social Security account is a recently released new service for the public, but the agency is not sending emails to generate enrollment. To open one of these personal accounts, citizens should go directly to my Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. If you receive an email inviting you to join, do not click any links.
Criminals are using "phishing" emails encouraging senior citizens to create an account. Rest assured, any email promoting this are not coming from the agency, according to information from the Social Security Administration.
Here's how to detect a fraudulent email message:
Any email coming from Social Security will come from an email address ending in ".gov", although you should not trust the "From" address, since attackers can spoof this address.
Any email coming from Social Security will not have email addresses associated with private companies such as Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.
Look for poor word choice, phrasing, spelling or extra words that are not needed in the text.
Links to Social Security websites will always begin with www.socialsecurity.gov/ or secure.ssa.gov/ (the slash after ".gov" is important). For example, you should not trust a link that looks like this: www.socialsecurity.gov.bx.co.rx/setup. If you are suspicious of a link in an email, use your mouse to "hover over" the link to see the web address.
Please note: Members of the public who receive phishing emails should forward them to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team at phishing-report@us- cert.gov.
To create an account on my Social Security, you must provide some personal information about yourself and give answers to some questions that only you are likely to know. Next, you create a username and password that you will use to access your online account. This process protects you and keeps your personal Social Security information private.
Scammers are developing new ways every day to defraud seniors of their hard-earned money.
To learn more about the Home Instead Senior Care network's Protect Seniors from Fraud program, go to ProtectSeni orsFromFraud.com or contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact Joe DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or go to HomeInstead.com.