Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay
Courtesy: Social Security Administration

Kids and kids at heart always look forward to the end of October, when we use tricks and treats in equal measure to celebrate Halloween. No doubt, you’ll be passing out treats to costumed hobgoblins and hooligans in your neighborhood on Halloween night. But be careful that you’re not fooled by a different kind of trickster looking for a larger handout — such as your identity.

Besides Halloween, October is also Crime Prevention Month and National Cyber Security Awareness Month. So, it’s the perfect time to remind you to safeguard your personal information — whether it’s online, on paper or given out in person. Don’t share your personal information — information such as your full name, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and Social Security number — with anyone unless you are certain it’s safe. Shred paperwork that includes personal information before throwing it out. And never reply to emails claiming to be from Social Security, asking for such information. Finally, don’t carry your Social Security card or number with you. These tips should help reduce your risk of identity theft.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. If you think you’ve been the victim of an identity thief, contact the Federal Trade Commission . Or, call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Learn more about identity theft by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Be cautious of tricksters trying to steal more than a sack of candy. Being the victim of identity theft can be horrifying. Enjoy the treats, but avoid the tricks.

Lexicographers, celebrate! Oct. 14 is Dictionary Day, which was established to recognize the achievements and contributions of Noah Webster (as in the Webster’s Dictionary). So, what better time than now to invite you to learn some new Social Security terms?

In the course of doing business with Social Security, you’ve probably encountered more than a few acronyms or terms that left you scratching your head. For example: Your FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) contributions aren’t the only factor to affect your OASDI (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) payments and eligibility. You must also consider such items as insured status, month of election and PIA (Primary Insurance Amount). Your protective filing date can make a difference, as well. And, each year, the amount of your payment is subject to change as the CPI-W (Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers) brings about a new COLA (cost-of-living adjustment).

Although we try to use plain language when communicating with the public, we understand that there are many Social Security terms that are considered jargon to people not steeped in agency policy. Once in a while, you may want to look up a term used in official notices or complicated explanations of how benefits are computed. Don’t worry. Social Security has its very own glossary to help.

The Glossary Of Social Security Terms is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/glossary. We also have an English to Spanish version of the glossary, available here.

Also, check out our library of easy-to-understand publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Chances are you’ll rarely find a word that isn’t easy to understand, thanks to our focus on conversational writing style. In fact, we’re the only federal agency to get straight A’s on the 2013 “Plain Writing Report Card” from the Center for Plain Language.

If you do encounter a word or phase that you don’t recognize, the place to go on Dictionary Day or any day is www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/glossary.
Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public information specialist in Hawai‘i.


Question: I’m retired and the only income I have is from an Individual Retirement Account. Are my IRA withdrawals considered “earnings?” Could they reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?

Answer: No. We count only the wages you earn from a job or your net profit if you are self-employed. Non-work income such as annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains, and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. Most pensions will not affect your benefits. However, your benefit may be affected by a government pension from work on which you did not pay Social Security tax. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


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