Beware of Social Security Fraud

Dollar Sign Drawing In A Notebook

Scams involving callers pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) asking for cash or gift card payments, have increased in the last year to become the most frequent type of fraud. To address this ongoing problem, the SSA has created an online form at for people to report suspected fraud.

If you have received a call, email, text or in-person communication from someone pretending to be from the SSA, you can report the scam directly to the SSA by using the online form. The form will allow you to create a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN), so if someone contacts you about your report, you can verify that the call is legitimate. The SSA will use the data it receives from the reports to find the people responsible for the scams and reduce this type of fraud and the number of victims.

SSA employees do occasionally contact people by telephone. This contact is usually when the person has ongoing claims or other business with the agency. However, an SSA employee will never threaten you with arrest or other legal action if you are unable to pay a fine or debt.  Any request for money from the SSA will come in the mail. The letter will have specific details of how to make the payment and explain any appeal rights you have if you disagree with the amount owed to the SSA. Similarly, the SSA will normally mail a letter if there are any problems with your Social Security number or record.

As a reminder, the SSA employees will not:

• Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended.

• Contact you to demand an immediate payment.

• Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash.

• Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.

• Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.

If you receive a call promising or threatening any of the above actions, you should hang up and report the call to the SSA at If you receive a letter stating that you owe money to the SSA and you do not agree or want to know more about your rights, South Carolina Legal Services may be able to help. To see if you qualify for our free services, call us at 1-888-346-5592 or apply online at

Tenants’ Rights to Heat and Hot Water

Young boy sitting in a chair.

During the winter months, lack of heat or hot water can become life-threatening conditions. This can be an especially big problem if you are disabled or have small children.  Repairs to heating and air or water heating appliances may be expensive, and landlords do not always fix them right away.  The South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Act) gives special protections to tenants when heat or hot water is not being provided in their units.

The Act requires landlords to provide heat and hot water.  Landlords are also required to maintain heating systems and hot water tanks.  Landlords cannot avoid these requirements through the lease.  If the landlord does not provide these services, you can sue but must first deliver a written notice to the landlord.  If the problem is not resolved as soon as possible, you can sue the landlord in the magistrate or circuit court and ask that the judge order the landlord to fix the problem and pay money damages.  In most cases, a landlord has fourteen (14) days to repair a problem, but if the problem affects health or safety, the landlord must make the repair as soon as possible.  If the landlord does not repair heat or hot water, you can terminate the lease but must first give the landlord a written notice that the lease will terminate in fourteen (14) days unless the problem is fixed before then.

Additionally, if the landlord does not provide heat or hot water, you have the right to obtain heat or hot water by some other means, such as a space heater or fire wood. You can subtract the cost from the rent and sue the landlord for money damages and attorneys’ fees. 

Once you discover a problem with heat or a water heater, you should act as soon as possible.  First, send a letter to the landlord with the specific details of the problem and what you want him to do.  If you want to terminate your lease because of this problem, say that in the letter. Remember, if the landlord fixes the problem within 14 days, you will not be allowed to end your lease.  Take pictures of any visible problems in the heating unit or water heater.  If not having the heat is life threatening, you can ask the magistrate judge for an emergency order to order the landlord to fix the problem. 

If the landlord does not fix the problem, you may sue.  You can sue in the magistrate court or the county court of common pleas in the county where you live.  If you file your case in the magistrate court, you can get a trial quickly, but remember, you cannot ask for more than $7,500.00 in damages. You or the landlord can ask for a jury trial.  Some counties require that you and the landlord try mediation before scheduling a jury trial. If you are having a problem with heat, air or hot water in your unit, South Carolina Legal Services may be able to help. To see if you qualify for our free services, call us at 1-888-346-5592 or apply online at

Every Child Deserves A Family

Father & Daughter Hugging

NOTE: All the names in this article have been changed to protect their identities.

In a modern world that is focused on negativity and dividing people based on their appearance or beliefs, we often forget about the simple traits that make us all human. No matter how big our differences may be, we all crave the human connection and the love of a family. Unfortunately, some children do not get to experience this love because they do not have a family. President Trump recently proclaimed the month of November as National Adoption Month – a time in which we can all raise awareness about the value of giving someone a family.

In 2019, South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) has helped with 105 adoption cases. Our staff and your support have helped at least 105 children find a home, family and lots of love.

Rose is one of those children. George Burrell had been the only father figure in Rose’s life. Although not related by blood, Rose had lived with George since the time she was born. When she turned 8, Rose was in danger of losing him. Rose’s mother had her when she was 16 – unable and unfit to raise the baby. The biological father was and remains unknown. Debby, Rose’s maternal grandmother, was granted legal custody of the baby. She and George began raising Rose together.

A few years later, George and Debby split up, but Rose stayed to live with George – her “grandpa”. Initially, she visited with Debby a couple nights a week, but eventually the visits were barely once a week. George continued to raise Rose, brought her to doctor appointments, enrolled her in school and attended all her school events. He was the only significant person in her life who supported her and spent time with her.

Over time, Debby’s behavior became erratic, oftentimes, in Rose’s presence. On a number of occasions, Debby tried to snatch the child from George. Rose was suffering from several mental disorders and the doctors agreed that her condition was stable only when she was with George. Nevertheless, Debby had a legal document showing that she had custody and there was no telling what she would do. George could have tried asking the court to change custody, but that would not eliminate all risk and uncertainty. The only solution was adoption – a permanent legal protection for the home that George had built for Rose.

This case is proof that it does not matter how complicated or unusual an adoption may seem on the surface. Every child deserves a “real” parent who will provide them with love, support, and stability. If you have a child in your life that you want to adopt, SCLS may be able to help. To see if you qualify for our free services, call us at 1-888-346-5592 or apply online at