Block scammers from stealing your Social Security payments electronically. Anyone who uses a bank account with ­direct deposit is vulnerable.

Thieves first obtain personal information including your Social Security and bank account numbers. Then the scammers use that information electronically to have the Social Security Administration (SSA) reroute your monthly benefits to a different direct-deposit account.

Example: An 86-year-old man received a letter telling him that he won $3.5 million and asking him to submit personal information by phone—after which he became a victim of diverted Social Security payment fraud.

There have been thousands of reports of this type of scheme involving millions of dollars in diverted payments, and several culprits have been arrested and convicted.

Self-defense: Never give out financial information to callers, even if they say that they are from a bank or the government. Always check the real phone number of the institution, and call it before divulging any information.

You can contact Social Security at 800-772-1213 and arrange to block anyone from making changes electronically or by phone to your account or establishing new online access to your account.

You also can use that number to report missing direct-deposit payments and open a fraud investigation. You will be reimbursed by the SSA, but it may take several weeks.