Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Ferguson Opening Statement: Hearing on the Social Security Administration’s Role in Combatting Identity Fraud
As prepared for delivery.
“Good afternoon and welcome to today’s hearing on the Social Security Administration’s role in combatting identity fraud.
“When the Social Security Administration began issuing Social Security numbers in 1936, they were simply used to track workers’ earnings and administer the Social Security program.
“Times have changed dramatically since then and now the Social Security number, or S-S-N, is the linchpin of American identity.
“SSNs are used for any number of reasons, some required by law, others not. If you want a job, if you want to buy a home, if you want to open a credit card, you need an SSN.
“But after countless data breaches, it’s clear that SSNs are far from safe and far from a secret. In 2022 alone, there were more 1,100 data breaches that included SSNs.
“So it should come as no surprise that the SSN is an attractive target for fraudsters and that identity theft is a real threat to millions of Americans every year, including children and seniors.
“In 2021, roughly 1.25 million children were the victims of identity fraud, which costs American families real time, real money, and real worry to resolve.
“The last thing someone needs when they’re trying to protect themselves or a loved one from identity fraud is red tape, but unfortunately resolving an issue related to a lost or stolen SSN can be a long and complex ordeal, placing additional burdens on victims, and extending the time fraudsters have to misuse the SSN.
“As the creator and issuer of SSNs, the Social Security Administration is uniquely positioned to not only combat SSN-related fraud, but also to protect people whose SSNs have been compromised from harm from identity fraud. But Social Security’s policies don’t always make doing so easy.
“Today we’ll have the opportunity to hear first-hand about how difficult resolving an issue related to a lost SSN can be, and discuss some ways that the Social Security Administration could make it easier for Americans to protect themselves from harm before it occurs.
“If a burglar breaks into your house and you call the police, they don’t tell you to wait a few more weeks and hope that your situation improves. Instead, they send an officer to respond.
“But that’s not always how victims of identity theft are treated, and that’s a problem. The American people deserve a similar response from government services when they are the victims of identity theft. Which is why I have partnered with Ranking Member Larson to reintroduce the Improving Social Security’s Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act that would require the Social Security Administration to provide a single point of contact for individuals whose SSNs have been misused and help resolve cases as quickly as possible.
“We’ll also have a chance to hear from both the Social Security Administration and its Office of Inspector General about ongoing efforts at the agency to combat identity fraud, and ways that these can be improved.
“The agency’s records are valuable anti-fraud tools because they associate the SSN with other verified identity data, such as name, date of birth, and date of death. In limited cases these records have been leveraged to help combat fraud such as by sharing death data with other federal and state agencies and by partnering with the private sector to establish the electronic consent-based SSN verification system, or E-C-B-S-V.
“But as we’ll hear today, there’s more that the SSA and Congress can do to improve the effectiveness of these efforts.
“Identity theft is a serious issue and we all have a responsibility to do better to protect Americans from this threat and restore the public trust.
“I thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.”