Social Security Giving Out SSNs To ID Thieves

Social Security Giving Out SSNs To ID Thieves

Why risk stealing a Social Security Number when you can get a document confirming you have the real thing directly from the Social Security Administration (SSA)? Some conniving identity thieves appear to be going directly to the source for the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) that they later sell for $1,500 - $2,500 on the black market. Illegal immigrants use the numbers to get jobs and drivers’ licenses.

According to a recent report from the SSA Office of Inspector General, weaknesses in SSA’s verification system leaves the program open to questionable requests for SSN printouts. Like a Social Security card, the printouts contain the name and SSN of the individual number holder, but have less stringent identity requirements, making them easier to obtain than replacement Social Security cards. In a review of 11 field offices, the inspectors found that nearly 20 percent of the printouts were issued without substantive proof of the requestor’s identity.

While the SSA has limits on the number of replacement SSN cards that an individual can obtain, it has not established limits on SSN printouts, and the number requested each year has been growing steadily. In performing the review, the Office of Inspector General searched its databases for criminal allegations or investigations related to any of the number holders who obtained more than 10 SSN printouts in a day in the government’s fiscal year 2009, or the first 6 months of fiscal year 2010. Not surprisingly, cases involving counterfeiting or altering SSN printouts, as well as SSN identity theft were found.

The problem is of concern to TSCL because, even when document fraud has been committed, current law still allows immigrants to count earnings and work credits for jobs worked while illegal toward Social Security benefits. If the illegal worker at some point gains work authorization, he or she can file a claim for benefits, and if the individual has kept records like W2s or tax returns, the earnings while illegal using the fraudulent number will be counted to determine entitlement to benefits.

With cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits under debate, TSCL believes that Congress must act to change the law that currently allows payment of Social Security benefits based on jobs worked without legal authorization. TSCL supports legislation that would ban the payment of benefits based on illegal work — H.R. 787, “No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act,” introduced by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46), and S.95, legislation to prevent Social Security credit from being earned without legal status introduced by Senator David Vitter (LA).

Sources: “Controls For Issuing Social Security Number Printouts”, Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration, December 2011, A-04-11-11105.