WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing to discuss the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) responsibility to do more to protect Americans from Social Security number (SSN)-related identity theft, as well as the government’s failure to help individuals whose SSNs have been compromised.
Governor Kristi Noem: My Family and I Had Our Social Security Numbers Disclosed by Congress and Face a Fallout Full of Bureaucratic Red Tape
When it comes to identity fraud, everyone is a potential victim. Each year, thousands of Americans have their Social Security numbers stolen by criminals and fraudsters. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) shared a statement from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, explaining that her family learned from media reports – rather than from those responsible in the government – that their Social Security numbers had been carelessly disclosed by Congress.
Chairman Smith: “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.’”
Americans With Stolen Social Security Numbers Need a Single Point of Contact to Help Resolve Identity Fraud Case
In 2021, roughly 1.25 million children were the victims of identity fraud, nearly 1 in 50 children. One witness, Margaret Hayward, didn’t receive her daughter’s SSN after it had been mailed by the SSA. As Mrs. Hayward testified, her family has been forced to navigate the SSA’s bureaucratic maze to protect her daughter’s financial future. Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Drew Ferguson (GA-03) pointed out that having a single point of contact at the SSA would be helpful for Americans whose identities have been stolen.
Rep. Ferguson: “You touched on in your testimony about the difficulties that you experienced in trying to solve this problem. Tell us a little bit how a single point of contact would have made this easier for you.”
Ms. Hayward: “A single point of contact would allow a certain amount of consistency, obviously, that would have been so helpful. I wouldn’t have been jockeying around and starting from scratch every time I was interacting with a representative or person, an employee in the office and having one person who could follow up with me and make sure that I was doing what I should be doing…As we’ve learned, through the testimony today, you know, it sounds like the time that you don’t know your number is time that you can’t be protecting your child in my case.”
The SSA’s Fee Hike Will Make It Harder to Prevent Identity Fraud
The SSA’s electronic consent-based SSN verification program (eCBSV) is a powerful tool that helps fight identity fraud by allowing financial institutions to use the SSA’s records to help detect synthetic identities in real time and stop fraud before it begins. As Rep. Blake Moore (UT-01) highlighted, however, SSA’s plan to hike fees could discourage use and result in higher costs for consumers.
Rep. Moore: “The Social Security Administration is hoping to recover the costs of the eCBSV within just three years by raising rates on users. There’s always externalities to this type of stuff and other unintended consequences. For the users who do continue to use the system, how will these costs be passed along to consumers?”
Ms. Wechsler: “I agree as far as the cost of fraud is felt by everyone that uses financial products or services. And that’s why we’re here today is to try to solve that problem and make those costs not be as significant as they are. And the best way we can do that is to extend the timeframe for eCBSV to recover that or for SSA to recover the costs and to make it as efficient and effective as possible…and then and really bringing some predictability and sanity to the fee structure.”