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Can the SSA Spy on You?

November 30, 2021 Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has several tools at its disposal to fight disability fraud among Social Security disability claimants. One of the most effective is the Social Security disability application process itself, which is long, detailed, and ends in initial denial in most cases. Another effective tool is the Continuing Disability Review program, which aims to ensure that individuals who receive Social Security disability benefits continue to meet the SSA’s eligibility guidelines. A less common and less well-known method is undercover surveillance, in which the SSA uses more covert methods to root out potential fraud among applicants and benefits recipients. You can minimize your risk of inadvertently committing disability fraud (or even the appearance of fraud) by hiring a Baltimore disability attorney to help you with your claim. 

Why Would the SSA Investigate You? 

Investigating suspicious claims through the use of private investigators is a tactic most commonly associated with the private insurance industry. While this method may be less common among non-investigative federal agencies, it is known to happen. The SSA typically will engage in undercover surveillance efforts when it has suspicions as to the validity of your disability application. For example, the SSA may believe that you lied about your monthly income or may consider discrepancies in your medical records to be intentional. 

Types of Surveillance Methods the Social Security Administration May Use

The most common surveillance methods the SSA uses are social media, direct observation, and photo and video surveillance. 

Social Media

Social media is a common target of surveillance efforts, mainly due to the fact that it offers the investigator a view into the applicant’s private life that they would otherwise not have access to. When surveilling social media, the investigator looks for behavior that is inconsistent with statements the applicant made. For example, if the applicant stated that her severe back pain prevents her from working, but is then seen in pictures skiing on vacation, that would likely ring alarm bells for the investigator. 

Direct Observation 

The Social Security Administration may also hire a private investigator to “tail” an applicant who it believes lied on his application. The agency will want to know whether the applicant is capable of performing certain activities that he would not be able to do if he suffered from the disability he claimed to have. The private investigator may follow the applicant in any public place, such as when he is running errands, going to and from work, and engaging in social activities, among others. 

Photo and Video Surveillance 

In most cases in which the SSA hires a private investigator, the private investigator will document her findings with photos and videos, which she will then turn over to the SSA to be used as evidence against the applicant. In other cases, the SSA might request video footage from establishments (gyms, grocery stores, etc.) the applicant frequents if it is available.

Contact a Baltimore Disability Attorney

To avoid the appearance of fraud that could lead to SSA surveillance, you should consider hiring an experienced attorney who can help you with your claim. To get started, please contact Baltimore disability attorney Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.