Social Security check scam costs Queens man $25K

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Thursday, September 7, 2023
Social Security check scam costs Queens man $25K
7 On Your Side stepped in to help a man from Queens who was desperate to get his $25,000 back after becoming the victim of check fraud. Was Nina Pineda able to help him get his money back?

EAST ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- Check fraud is back in a big way and getting more sophisticated. The number of fraud cases has nearly doubled year to year, up to nearly 700 annually.

It starts when a check is stolen out of the mail and then fraudulently cashed. And now they are even targeting government checks worth thousands.

Every day since last year, Anthony Perlongo been checking his mailbox and his inbox, waiting for money he is owed by the federal government to arrive.

"I'm worried about how to pay rent, food, thank God I have friends," Perlongo said.

After suffering heart failure and being unable to work, the union laborer for Local 79 qualified for disability benefits -- a lump sum settlement check for more than $25,000 was cut on Nov. 2.

They sent Perlongo a paper check in the mail, but by the end of November, no check had arrived.

"I called up Social Security, they said you cashed that check already," Perlongo said.

His payment was somehow stolen, forged and fraudulently cashed -- all $25,692.

Apparently a scammer printed Perlongo's name on the back of a fraudulent check and endorsed it.

Last winter Perlongo opened a fraud claim and provided samples of his own signature three times.

Back in March, he got a letter from the U.S. Treasury telling him that forgery was in fact determined in his case and that his funds were transferred back to the SSA.

He has come to the office in Long Island City every month for half a year but they still can't find his $25,000.

"I feel stuck and like I can't get anywhere," Perlongo said. "The treasury department sent it back to Social Security, Social Security is supposed to send it back to me."

Perlongo turned to 7 On Your Side and we asked both the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Treasury to get on the same page.

Neither the SSA nor the treasury told 7 On Your Side what happened with the money, but the next morning, a SSA district manager called Perlongo.

And as promised, within two weeks to the day of that call, he woke up and the money had been deposited.

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