We all know that our caregivers shape us. Oftentimes, parents and guardians give everything to their children, perhaps even when they’re long gone. Well, according to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration (SSA), one 80 year-old Texas man was appreciating his mother’s legacy long after she was gone. The OIG says he has been defrauding the government for over 28 years! (If true, I wonder if he was going for a world record?)

The defendant has been charged with one count of theft in connection with Social Security benefits. Authorities say that from 1984-2010, the defendant collected over $231,000 in his mother’s Social Security benefits. An investigation indicated that the mother and son had a joint checking account, and the Social Security funds were electronically deposited into it. (Perhaps direct deposit isn’t as good of an idea as we thought.)

So, how did authorities become suspicious? According to the indictment, the SSA thought there was something a little fishy about the fact that the woman should have been 104 years old and was still collecting benefits.

A couple of quick points: first, the defendant is accused, not convicted. He is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Second, regardless of the specific facts of this case, it raises a plausible scenario: How would any government program directly depositing benefits into a joint checking account know if the beneficiary was dead? What would prevent someone else on the account from collecting the benefits? The answer is simple: public records data. By verifying the identity of a benefit recipient against public records databases using technology, federal, state and local agencies can all authenticate the identities of their program beneficiaries. That way, they know the individual receiving the benefit is really the individual entitled to receive it.

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