Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits are important safety nets for American workers and people with disabilities. These programs ensure you have some income if you become disabled and can't work. Unfortunately, they sometimes provide an opportunity for dishonest people to take advantage of the system.
Defrauding the system to collect benefits and avoid working is illegal—and it's not a victimless crime. SSI and SSDI fraud causes harm because it:
If you suspect SSDI or SSI fraud, you can take action to report it. Here's what you need to know to recognize and report Social Security disability fraud.
Anytime someone knowingly misrepresents or omits facts to fool Social Security and get SSDI or SSI benefits, it's considered fraud (or a similar fault to fraud). Social Security disability fraud can take several forms. Examples of disability fraud include:
First, you need to realize that accusing someone of Social Security fraud is serious and could result in criminal and civil penalties. Make sure your facts are correct and that you have enough information about the person's situation before you file a fraud report.
Remember, physical disabilities aren't always visually obvious. And not all disabilities are physical—some can be mental, including impairments that are:
This means it can be hard to really know if a person is disabled.
Second, know that a person receiving SSDI or SSI disability benefits is allowed to work a minimal amount (the SGA amount). So just because you know that someone is working or collecting a paycheck doesn't mean they're necessarily committing fraud.
If you have enough facts and you're confident that someone you know is committing SSDI or SSI fraud, you can file a report with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
You can contact OIG to report suspected disability fraud in the following ways:
When making the report, give as many details as you can, especially the name of the person committing fraud and, if you know it, that person's:
Be prepared to explain the following:
When you report suspected Social Security fraud, you have the option to request anonymity. You can also ask for confidentiality, which places restrictions on how Social Security and IGO can use your contact information.
To keep your identity confidential, you must provide your name and contact information to Social Security. And you give permission for an OIG analyst or investigator to contact you if additional information is needed. But Social Security won't share anything that would identify you unless compelled to do so by law (court order or subpoena).
If you wish to remain completely anonymous, you don't have to give Social Security your name or contact information. If you do this, no one will know you filed the fraud accusation, but investigators won't be able to contact you if more information is needed to complete the investigation.
Social Security takes all allegations of disability fraud seriously. No matter which method you use to report your suspicions, OIG will log and review your fraud report. Based on the information you provide, the agency will take appropriate action, which could include any of the following:
Any fraud allegation could also result in audits, reviews, or investigations on a broader scale—meaning OIG could look into Social Security processes or the actions of certain personnel.
Both Social Security card fraud and disability fraud carry severe penalties, including both civil and criminal punishment. Someone convicted of a felony for defrauding Social Security could face criminal penalties of up to:
On top of the criminal penalties, there can be civil penalties as well. Someone found guilty of fraud can be sued in civil court, which could result in:
And the penalties can add up. If you know you're not eligible for Social Security disability, each false statement you make by signing a form or statement could result in a fine of up to $5,000. Make ten such false statements, and you could face up to $50,000 in fines.
If you're accused of disability fraud or your application for SSDI or SSI was denied because Social Security says your statements weren't credible, consider contacting a disability lawyer right away.
Updated January 25, 2023