Attorneys General Encourage Social Security ID Theft Prevention

Inside Subprime: Jan 8, 2018

By Grace Austin 

Attorneys general from across the country are urging the government to take steps to better prevent a specific kind of social security ID theft.

Forty-three state top lawyers, as well as the attorney general of the District of Columbia, are urging the Social Security Administration to make some key changes. The attorneys general, under the umbrella National Association of Attorneys General, are asking the SSA to update its electronic databases and verification procedures, so it can better digitally hone in and prevent identity theft. The attorneys general say scammers use real social security numbers to create new, false identities, called “synthetic identity theft.”

The bipartisan group of attorneys general say current delays in banking verification allow identity thieves to get away with their crimes before it’s too late to stop them.

The attorneys general are asking the SSA to comply as soon as possible with new federal legislation designed to stop the threat. In May 2018, Congress passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. One particular provision in that law would create a database to verify a consumer’s ID when requested by a financial institution with the customer’s consent. Currently, there isn’t a system for real-time identity confirmation that a bank or credit union can use.

As the attorneys general wrote in a recent letter to the head of the SSA, identity theft causes customers to lose money, damages their credit scores, and causes anxiety over the loss of personal security. One report that the letter cites estimates billions of dollars have been lost over the past four years due to synthetic identity theft.

While senior citizens are often the most scammed demographic, this particular identity theft seems to affect children and new immigrants the most, according to the letter written by the group of attorneys general. That’s because those who have recently received a social security number are most likely to be targeted. It sets them up poorly for future financial opportunities if they are taken advantage of by identity thieves.

Everyday, there seem to be new alerts for social security fraud. Social security number phishing was the second-most commonly reported scam in Vermont in 2018. The fraud involves posing as the SSA or a business to try and get a target’s social security number. The Texas Attorney General also sent out a warning in January 2019 against the same threat — scammers pretending to be SSA agents. In Texas, the scammers say a target’s social security number has been used in a crime and they need to pay a fee to reactivate it or receive a new number. Overall, the Federal Trade Commission says the scam is growing “exponentially” and warns American consumers to be weary since tens of thousands in 2018 alone have already been duped.

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