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Switch to paperless benefit payments causes new issues

As many Detroit residents are aware, the Social Security system has taken its fair share of criticism over the last decade or two. Questions about how long the system can last, and how much each person should contribute to the fund, have been circulating for a long time. Whatever the answers to these questions may be, the only thing we can do now is work within the system we have. People are contributing, and beneficiaries are receiving the money they desperately need.

In an attempt to simplify the Social Security system, the federal government implemented new guidelines in 1996 that would, over time, force beneficiaries to switch to paperless payment methods. The change to this system has been ongoing ever since, but it's basically complete.

The new ways for beneficiaries to receive their benefits are to go with direct deposit, or to obtain prepaid debit cards. These systems cut down on costs for the program and, supposedly, would better secure the payments that beneficiaries receive. Paper checks had a habit of being stolen in the mail or being susceptible to con artists.

However, mounting evidence is showing that these system are not as secure as promised -- and they even eat into a beneficiary's check. Fees associated with money transfers and bank transactions (in addition to online fees) can strip away money from a Social Security beneficiary. There's also the chance that online scammers or hackers could penetrate the security system of this payment distribution method, leaving beneficiaries with fewer funds or no payment at all.

Source:, "Are Fees, Fraud Eating Away at Your Social Security?," Shelby Bremer, July 1, 2013

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