SSA software to thwart identity theft
- By Judi Hasson
- Oct 26, 2000
The Social Security Administration intends to launch a pilot project early
next year that would rely on technology to help verify a person's citizenship.
The project is part of SSA's initiatives to stem the use of fraudulent
Social Security numbers to steal people's proof of identity, said William
Halter, deputy SSA commissioner.
"Identity theft is growing, and we are committed to fixing it," Halter
told an SSA conference Wednesday on identity theft.
James Huse Jr., SSA's inspector general, said a person can show up at
any SSA field office with a tattered but legal copy of a birth certificate
from another state. Usually, the local officers have no way of verifying
whether the document is legitimate.
To combat that situation, Huse said SSA is developing software that
will enable field offices to check the vital statistics departments of states
electronically and swiftly. The pilot begins in January, and the localities
involved will be announced at a future date.
The problem of identity theft has reached "epidemic levels," Huse said.
In 1998, more than 11,000 Social Security numbers were fraudulently
obtained. That number rose to more than 30,000 in 1999, according to Huse.
And the numbers are expected to grow even more as thieves use the Internet
to obtain phony documents and then obtain the Social Security numbers required
for a wide variety of documents, from credit cards to driver's licenses.
"The new technology makes it easy to steal your identity numbers," Huse
said. "It is very difficult to understand where we can go with the new technologies
if we can't lick this problem."