Safeguarding Money, Identity

Armen Hareyan's picture

Social Security Direct Deposit

Despite 95 percent of Americans having heard or read about identity theft, a new survey reveals that many are unaware of the security benefits of direct deposit over paper checks - and that could place them at greater risk for identity theft and fraud.

The survey, sponsored by the United States Department of the Treasury and Federal Reserve Banks, is the latest public service initiative of the Go Direct campaign. Go Direct aims to motivate more Americans who receive Social Security or other federal benefits to switch to the safer, easier and more convenient option of direct deposit.

The survey revealed the following key misconceptions among Americans:

  • 62 percent said that a paper check with your name on it can only be cashed if you sign or endorse it.

FACT: Checks can be forged - some more easily than others. Payments that come in the mail are especially vulnerable to theft and fraudulent endorsements.

  • Nearly half of those polled said direct deposit of payments like wages, salary or government benefits go through the Internet to be deposited into your account.


FACT: Direct deposit works by transferring funds directly into your account through a highly secure electronic banking system - not the Internet. It is the same system used by the world's leading financial institutions.

  • Nearly 40 percent of respondents said this statement is false - "No direct deposit has ever been lost or stolen."

FACT: The direct deposit system creates records of transactions so payments can be traced, and that means problems - although very rare - are quickly fixed. It's also a fact that you are 30 times more likely to have a problem with a Treasury check than with direct deposit.

"At the Treasury, we receive half a million calls a year from people reporting problems with Treasury checks. These problems range from lost checks to stolen or forged checks," said Anna Cabral, Treasurer of the United States. "With the growing incidence of identity theft in this country - much of it targeting seniors - we urge everyone to sign up for direct deposit. It's simply the safest, most reliable and convenient way for people to receive Social Security benefits."

For many years, direct deposit has been a priority for the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks. Go Direct champions a long-standing effort to shift from paper payments to direct deposit. The integrated campaign relies on trusted sources - such as financial institutions and community-based organizations - to reach seniors, disabled people and other federal benefit recipients where they live, work and socialize.

In February, financial institutions, government leaders and community-based organizations around the country showed their support for direct deposit of Social Security payments by participating in National Go Direct Month. The month