The Kirk Law Firm (Kirk) of Kentucky has agreed to pay a $7,500 civil monetary penalty to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and has voluntarily removed Social Security-related advertising signs at two of its law offices, SSA Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr. announced.
The SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) contacted Kirk after learning the law firm had placed “Social Security Sign-Up Office” signs at its Prestonsburg and Inez, Kentucky law offices. The SSA OIG informed Kirk that the signs violated Section 1140 of the Social Security Act (the Act). Kirk immediately removed the signs. While not admitting that it violated Section 1140 of the Act, Kirk agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty to settle the SSA OIG’s claim.
Section 1140 prohibits the use of SSA words and symbols in advertisements or solicitations in a manner that conveys the false impression that SSA approved, endorsed, or authorized the subject of the advertisements or solicitations; or that the subject has some official connection with SSA. In this case, the SSA OIG believed that the signs were confusing to the public by indicating either that the Kirk Law Firm was a local Social Security office, or that it had some other unique official connection or affiliation with SSA.
In response to the increase in Section 1140 allegations, the Office of the Inspector General has launched an aggressive offensive to combat this type of misleading marketing and deter violations through enforcement and educational outreach.
For more information, please contact Jonathan Lasher, OIG’s Assistant Inspector General for External Relations, at 410-965-2671.