Question: Is it true that there won't be an increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments in 2010? How was that decided?

Answer: Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will not automatically increase in 2010. By law, benefits increase automatically each year only if there is an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year to the third quarter of the current year. This year there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009. However, President Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation extending an additional $250 economic recovery payment to beneficiaries. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Question: I got an e-mail that says it's from Social Security, but I'm not so sure. They want me to send in my Social Security number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name for "verification." Did it really come from Social Security?

Answer: No. Social Security will not send you an email asking you to give us your personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or other private information. Beware of such scams — they're after your information so they can use it for their own benefit. When in doubt, or if you have any questions about correspondence you receive from Social Security, contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to see whether we really need any information from you.

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213.