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Chairman Smith Opening Statement: Hearing on the Social Security Administration’s Role in Combatting Identity Fraud

May 24, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

“Chairman Ferguson, Ranking Member Larson – thank you for the opportunity to share a few remarks on this important topic that affects every American.

“We all know someone who has had to go through the ordeal of Identity Theft. One of the reasons I wanted to hold this hearing was after learning about everything our former colleague, Governor Kristi Noem, had to deal with after Congress publicly  disclosed the Social Security numbers of her, her husband, and her children. I asked the Governor to share with this Committee about her experience, the difficulties since her family’s numbers were made available to the public, and what reforms we should consider through our jurisdiction to help families who find themselves in a similar unfortunate circumstance.

“I have with me a statement from Governor Noem expressing her appreciation for and interest in the Committee holding today’s hearing. Governor Noem writes, in part:

‘It is troublesome enough that identity thieves and fraudsters can try to steal our personal information right out from under us, but the government should not be doing fraudsters favors by improperly disclosing these important numbers that provide intimate access to one’s identity. Furthermore, government should also be a help and not a hindrance for those whose Social Security numbers have been compromised.

‘While disclosing your Social Security number for legitimate purpose causes millions to take a pause, it is even more alarming when a citizen can’t trust their own government to keep their personally identifying information secure. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to me and my family when Congress exposed the Social Security numbers of me, as well as that of my husband, my three children, and son-in-law to the entire world.”

“Governor Noem goes on to describe how the disclosure occurred and how she found out:

‘In December of 2020, my family and I provided our Social Security numbers to the White House as part of an official visit in my capacity as Governor. Somehow, these records went unredacted to the National Archives and were provided to the United States Congress. They were then needlessly and carelessly published, again without redaction, for all to see on the internet.

‘Unbelievable as that is, of equal concern, I learned of the public disclosure of our private information through reports in the media. That is outrageous. It wasn’t a call from the Social Security Administration or from any of the governmental bodies who published our personal information for millions to see, failing at each turn to safeguard the personal information entrusted to it. Instead, I learned from the media and reporters who reached out about the disclosure.’

In her statement, Governor Noem also highlights the financial fallout from this experience that has already occurred and the burden on her family going forward. She writes:

‘My family has already had to spend time and money to protect ourselves from the government’s careless disclosure of our personal information, and already bad actors have tried to use that information to their advantage. It may be years before we experience the full impact of this disclosure, but for the foreseeable future, we must closely monitor every financial transaction we see, realizing there may be ones out there we never see. Congress needs to take steps to not only better protect the Social Security numbers of American citizens, but for those who do have their numbers compromised, at a minimum, make sure they are made aware of such a disclosure. Additionally, we must cut the bureaucracy and red tape one must go through when trying to navigate the cumbersome and difficult situation of replacing their own or their child’s Social Security number once it is compromised.’

“I ask unanimous consent to insert the governor’s entire statement into the record.

“Thank you, and I yield back.”