Q&A: Reporting Social Security fraud

Dear Liz: You’ve written about Social Security survivor benefits and how after one spouse dies, the other gets only one check, which is supposed to be the larger of the two the couple previously received. I know a woman who is still collecting both her own and her deceased husband’s check. How is that possible?

Answer: That can happen if the death wasn’t properly reported to the Social Security Administration. Continuing to collect and cash the dead person’s checks is fraud. You can report it by calling Social Security’s fraud hotline at (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


  1. Strange as it may sound sometimes there can be two checks. One for the recipient’s on check and a second for the spousal portion. The total of the two would be equal to the larger benefit amount. Without knowing the amounts of the checks you can’t know exactly what’s going on. But if she’s getting too much it’s better to get it fixed sooner rather than latter as SS will want all the coverage back.

  2. Calm down everyone. Maybe he isn’t dead. Perhaps he just left the woman and faked his death. Also how old is she? I mean if your old enough what have you got to lose? The Social Security office isn’t going to through an 85 year old woman in jail. If they do, she might be better off. Free medical and dental care, a roof over her head, new friends, free meals, gosh perhaps I should consider this.