People who use social networking Web sites know that it can be exciting to reconnect with long-lost friends and relatives over the Internet. Such surprise connections can be fun and conjure up memories of times forgotten. But what if you have a more serious situation and you need to locate a particular person? Perhaps Social Security can help.

Social Security is in the business of paying benefits, not reconnecting people. But, in some cases, we will do what we can to help.

We will attempt to forward a letter to a missing person under circumstances involving a matter of great importance, such as a death or serious illness in the missing person's immediate family, or a sizeable amount of money that is due the missing person. Also, the circumstances must concern a matter about which the missing person is unaware and would undoubtedly want to be informed.

In less dire cases, such as when a son, daughter, brother or sister want to establish contact, we will write to the missing person, rather than forwarding a letter.

Because this service is not related in any way to a Social Security program, its use must be limited so that it does not interfere with our regular program activities.

There is no charge for forwarding letters that have a humanitarian purpose. However, we must charge a $25 fee to cover our costs when the letter is to inform the missing person of money or property due. This fee is not refundable. The fee should be paid by a check made payable to the Social Security Administration.

We must read each letter we forward to ensure that it contains nothing that could prove embarrassing to the missing person if read by a third party. Letters should be in plain, unstamped, unsealed envelopes showing only the missing person's name. Nothing of value should be enclosed.

To try to locate an address in our records, we'll need the missing person's Social Security number or identifying information such as date and place of birth, father's name and the mother's full birth name.

Unless a missing person is receiving benefits under a program Social Security administers, we would not have a home address for them. Usually, we forward a letter in care of the employer who most recently reported earnings for the person.

Requests for letter forwarding should be sent to: Social Security Administration, Letter Forwarding , P.O. Box 33022 , Baltimore, MD 21290-3022

Learn more about this service at www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/html/ltrfwding.htm.

On a separate topic, I just wanted to mention that Social Security has surpassed the 2 million mark for individuals filing for retirement benefits online. Internet filing has become exceptionally popular as people see how easy it is to file online. Last month, a quarter of the people filing for retirement benefits with the Hays Social Security office did so through the internet.

Questions for this column should be mailed to "Social Security Matters" Attn: James Feyerherm, 1212 E 27 St, Hays KS 67601. All names will be held confidential. You can also go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

James Feyerherm is district manager of the Hays Social Security office.