During a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on May 24, officials from the Social Security Administration (SSA) testified before the committee on some of the actions they have undertaken to combat online identity fraud.

During the hearing, Sean Brune, deputy commissioner for systems and chief information officer at the SSA, described how they are continually helping fraud victims get the help they need to protect themselves.

“We provide individuals who suspect their identities have been stolen with up-to-date information about steps they can take to minimize the damage caused by the criminals,” said Brune.

Brune also added that he and his agency process “over 2 billion automated SSN verifications through more than 3500 data exchanges using electronic systems such as [their] social security number verification service and the electronic consent-based verification service,” in an effort to stay ahead of cybercriminals.

One of the continual and overarching issues that the SSA has come across has been the proliferation and use of online scams to fraudulently obtain individual’s SSNs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeffrey Brown, deputy assistant inspector general, Office of Audits, Office of the Inspector General at the SSA, noted this online phenomenon.

“We found that bad actors exploited some of SSH public facing systems to potentially commit identity fraud. These instant instances underscore the need for SSA to thoroughly evaluated systems to potential for potential vulnerabilities to ensure users are who they claim to be, and that systems aren’t misused,” said Brown.

To combat this issue, Brown noted that the agency has “established a multidisciplinary team of professionals that develop and implement innovative approaches to combat identity theft and scams.”

Other actions that the agency has undertaken include the creation of the ‘Slam The Scam Day’ that they have to raise awareness of how bad actors could be trying to obtain unsuspecting individuals’ SSNs.

Although the SSA has taken steps to lower the amount of identity fraud, there are still members of Congress who feel that the agency has not done enough, which has catapulted some to introduce legislation that would help deter such fraud.

During the hearing, both Reps, Drew Ferguson, R-GA., and John Larson, D-CT., noted they have partnered together to reintroduce the Improving Social Security Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act.

“[It] would require the Social Security Administration to provide a single point of contact for individuals whose numbers have been misused and to help resolve cases as quickly as possible,” said Ferguson.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.