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Social Security Employees Accused of Fraud, Taking Bribes

November 21, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Social Security Administration employees gave out confidential information to thieves that was used to charge an estimated $10 million on stolen credit cards, authorities said.

``I am shocked,″ Beatrice Disman, Social Security’s local commissioner, said Wednesday. ``We take it personally. I feel the public has entrusted us with very valuable, personal information.″

The scheme was hatched last year by thieves who stole hundreds of credit cards, sometimes by rerouting mail with forged change-of-address requests, authorities said. The Social Security numbers of people named on the cards apparently were obtained from credit reports or other records.

The thieves allegedly baited 10 Social Security employees, whom they knew socially, with payoffs of $10 to $75, and even cheap jewelry. In exchange, the employees plugged Social Security numbers into a government computer to retrieve birth dates and mothers’ maiden names _ information legitimate customers use to activate new credit cards by calling special 800 numbers, authorities said.

Bank officials estimated the goods, services and cash withdrawals billed to the stolen cards totaled $10 million.

Social Security officials began a criminal investigation when Citibank alerted them to a dramatic rise in credit card fraud, authorities said.

Ten former or current Social Security employees have been charged with accepting bribes and computer fraud, including six arrested Tuesday. The security guard faces the same charges.

Nine people accused of stealing the credit cards are also charged.

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