With the clock ticking on Social Security payments moving from paper to direct deposit, an Area Agency on Aging is asking senior citizens to beware.

With change comes scams, and Joy Paeth, head of the Belleville-based Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois, says never give out your personal information. “Social Security or the government will never call them directly to say ‘hey, we need your bank account number and we need your Social Security number so we can do this electronic payment,’ they will never do that,” Paeth said. “The beneficiary has to initiate that change.”

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Starting March 1, the Treasury Department is requiring all Social Security, SSI, VA, and other federal beneficiaries to receive benefits by electronic payment. Senior citizens and other federal beneficiaries can choose direct deposit to a bank account or they can have funds deposited to a Direct Express Debit MasterCard.

Paeth says direct deposit is actually safer than receiving a check in the mail. Because checks arrive at roughly the same time each month, there’s more of a chance of theft.

The Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois serves senior citizens in Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Washington Counties.

To enroll in direct deposit, senior citizens and others receiving federal benefits should call the Treasury’s Go Direct call center at 800-333-1795.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/ www.AltonDailyNews.com)