Attorneys Cautioned Against Improper Use of Social Security Programs

March 5, 2020

The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General is warning members of the legal profession about the consequences of fraudulent use of its benefits programs to lure potential clients.

According to Sotiris Planzos, SSA acting counsel for investigations and enforcements, there has been an uptick in this type of activity, which includes:

  • Websites, billboards, and print or television advertising that gives the false impression that an attorney or law firm is endorsed or recommended by the SSA
  • Signs that falsely convey a law office is an official SSA field office or otherwise associated with the agency
  • Correspondence giving the false impression of originating from the SSA
  • Telephone scripts or recorded messages that mislead callers into believing they have reached an official SSA office

Section 1140 of the Social Security Act prohibits using SSA program words and/or symbols in advertisements, solicitations, or other communications. It also outlaws charging for reproduction, reprinting, or distribution of SSA forms, applications, and other publications without the agency’s consent and offering fee-based assistance for products or services the SSA provides for free. Financial penalties for violating the Section 1140 range from $10,705 to more than $53,500 per incident.

Questions or requests for more information on this subject can be directed to SSA Deputy Counsel for Section 1140 Enforcement David Rodriguez at (410) 965-3498 or david.rodriguez@ssa.gov.