TN 40 (09-17)

GN 02406.232 Same or Similar Name Cases

A. Background

Cases involving improper endorsement of a social security benefit check may arise when a check intended for a particular individual is delivered to, and negotiated by, a person whose name is the same as or similar to that of the intended payee. Before the Modernized Claims System (MCS), these errors occurred in our paper environment; for example, when making a change of address an error populates because of a typo when entering a Social Security Number (SSN). Errors occur for claimants with the same name; for example, a father and son live at the same address with the same name except the son is Jr. and the payment excludes this information.

The difference between a regular check fraud situation and a same or similar name situation is the wrong person received the check who coincidentally has a same or similar name of the intended payee, which may complicate or prevent the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) ability to reclaim the money from the presenting bank.

B. Processing cases involving improper endorsement of benefit checks

The section presents different scenarios and likely conclusions; however, not every scenario is listed below. Treasury processes each scenario on a case-by-case basis. When in doubt, submit the case to Treasury for possible reclamation.

1. Check certified to the wrong address due to an administrative error

A check for Harry Smith (#1) of Pine Avenue goes to a Harry Smith (#2) on Maple Avenue, due to an administrative error, SSA certified the check to the wrong Harry Smith. Harry Smith (#2) cashes the check. Harry Smith (#1) alleges non-receipt and answers that he never lived at that address on the FMS-1133-Claims Package that he never lived on Maple Avenue.

  • Treasury cannot reclaim from the presenting bank because Harry Smith (#2) had the same name and address printed on the check and would have had proper identification.

  • SSA must replace the payment to Harry Smith (#1) to make him whole.

  • SSA can attempt to get the money back from Harry Smith (#2).

2. Check correctly certified but delivered to wrong address due to postal office error.

A check correctly certified to John Smith (#1) at 1112 Green Street is incorrectly sent to John Smith (#2) at 1122 Green Street due to a postal delivery error. John Smith (#2) negotiates the check. John Smith (#1) alleges non-receipt after looking at the check photocopy, stating it is not his signature and he will answer on the FMS-1133 that he does live at the address on the check photocopy.

  • Treasury can reclaim because the address was correct but the person who signed the check did not live at that address.

  • The person who incorrectly received the check coincidentally had a same or similar name of the intended payee. Since the address on the check was that of the correct payee and not the person who signed it, Treasury can reclaim from the presenting bank.

3. Same or Similar name living at the same address.

John Doe, Sr. and his son, John Doe, Jr., live at the same address. John Doe, Sr. is receiving Title II retirement benefits. John, Jr. intercepts his father’s check and cashes it.

  • If the check is inscribed with the name, “John Doe, Sr.” and John Doe, Jr. cashed it, Treasury can reclaim from the bank.

  • If Sr. is not inscribe on the check, Treasury cannot reclaim it.

C. Procedure for returned claims distribution notice 6B determinations

A same or similar case may not be apparent until Treasury’s evaluation of the responses on the FMS-1133. Treasury may return a claims disposition notice (CDN) determination of “6B” see “Settlement not recommended and case closed GN 02406.425B. Claimant never lived at or received mail at the check address. If check negotiated by person of same name at check address, there is no legal basis for recovery.” The example scenario in B.1. warrants a “6B” determination.

However, situations may be slightly different, or we may not know why the check certified to an incorrect address (for instance, no recent change of address on the record).

If SSA disagrees with a “6B” determination return on the CDN,

  • return the package to Treasury with an explanation;

  • request another review;

  • ask Treasury to reexamine the signature;

  • explain that we do not know why the check has the wrong address or what the special circumstances are that warrants review; and

  • return the package to the following address:

    U.S. Department of the