Feds set March deadline for Social Security direct-deposit - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Feds set March deadline for Social Security direct-deposit

(WMC TV) - Her coffee's strong. Bold -- like her personality.

It's certainly bold -- and rare -- for senior citizen Velma Billings to have been direct-depositing her Social Security check for almost 20 years.

"I couldn't imagine why anybody would keep their checks at home when it can go straight to the bank," she said. "I thought everybody did it."

Most seniors don't.

In fact, the advocacy group Consumers for Paper Options said one in 12 households don't maintain a bank account. "That percentage is even higher among elderly and disabled Americans," said the group in a news release.

Still, in an effort to control paper waste, theft and fraud, the U.S. Treasury has mandated that starting March 1, Social Security benefits must be direct-deposited into bank accounts.

Recipients who do not arrange direct-deposit by March 1 will, however, still receive a paper check for the month of March.

"In that (check), there will be information that shares with them that they are out of compliance," said Linda Williams, president of the RISE foundation. "There is also the possibility that they may receive a card -- a bank card -- that they will have to activate. The concern we have is if those cards are in the mail and someone gets a hold of them, then they may be able to activate those cards.

"It is always best to have a (direct deposit) banking relationship."

RISE, the city of Memphis and their community partners established BankOnMemphis.org as a one-stop-shop for citizens without bank accounts. From that site, Social Security recipients can shop a dozen local banks -- their accounts, their services, their terms and conditions -- and arrange direct-deposit of their benefits.

Brad Benson, spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury's Financial Management Services, confirmed the treasury will not suspend paper checks to recipients who do not have direct-deposit arranged by March 1.

He did say, however, that some recipients will indeed receive prepaid bank cards in place of their paper checks in an effort to encourage them to convert to direct-deposit.

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