The March 1 deadline is approaching for anyone who receives Social Security, SSI payments or veterans' benefits by mail to go paperless.
To save money, the federal government wants to make all its payments electronically, which means using a direct deposit into a bank account or onto a debit card. Seniors should let Social Security know how they want to receive their benefits.
Cristina Martin Firvida with AARP said don't worry too much about the deadline.
"If they have not made the switch by March 1, they will continue to receive their benefit," she said.
About 5 million people still receive paper checks for these federal programs. Florida is a state with high numbers of people receiving them.
With a debit card, know the fees for using the card, whether there's a good network of ATMs so you can get cash when you need it and whether a debit card is practical for paying bills. All banks and credit unions offer debit cards, and the U.S. Treasury has a card, too, just for this purpose.
"You will get one debit card, and it will be reloaded each month," she said. "If you go with the Treasury debit card, they have set up a call center so that you have a way of calling and checking on the balance of your card."
AARP is warning people that, with any change involving transfers of money, scams crop up. Firvida said if you are called or e-mailed with reminders about the deadline or asked for personal information to help make the switch, hang up or press "delete."
"Don't give that out," she said. "No one from SSA is going to ask you for that kind of information by phone or by e-mail. You should never respond to those kinds of inquiries."
Firvida, director of financial security for AARP's Government Affairs Division, said a bank or credit union can help arrange direct deposits or a debit card account at GoDirect.org or by calling the Treasury Department (800) 333-1795. AARP also has information about making this transition at AARP.org.
- Florida News Connection