Elderly retired New Jersey state employees shouldn't take the letters they received in the mail recently personally. The state's Division of Pensions and Benefits just wants to make sure they're not dead.
Actually, the letters and signature cards the state sent out in September are a housekeeping vehicle, to make sure the state's records are accurate in terms of birth dates, addresses and who has power of attorney for some of the state's oldest retirees, said New Jersey Department of the Treasury spokeswoman Mary Lou Murphy.
"It was something we had done in the past as more of a monitoring of the pension systems," Ms. Murphy said. "They decided to do this type of audit again. Unfortunately, there are some abuses in the pension systems. This is just our way of monitoring the pension funds."
Although pension fraud is uncommon among the elderly, Ms. Murphy said in some cases families of beneficiaries have continued to collect pension benefits after the beneficiary has died. Other times, retirees transfer power of attorney to other parties without notifying the Division of Pensions and Benefits.
New Jersey's five active and four closed pension systems have 425,000 active participants and another 176,000 retirees. All told, the division internally manages $82.5 billion in assets in all of the funds.
Of the cards the division has received to date, between 5% and 10% of the respondents have indicated they have handed power of attorney to another party. Ms. Murphy said she knew of no cards that had been returned indicating the beneficiary had died.