Fighting Social Security identity theft



CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined a group of 43 attorneys general in urging the Social Security Administration to prioritize necessary changes within its system to fight identity theft.

The bipartisan coalition highlighted the prevalence of synthetic identity theft in stressing that Social Security must expedite its development of an electronic database to aid certified financial institutions in verifying a consumer’s information – a directive passed by Congress.

“Many consumers lose thousands of dollars a year and suffer from ruined credit scores, as well as a general sense of anxiety as a result of identity theft,” Morrisey said. “Having a nimble system to respond to warning signs of identity theft, and to prevent theft from happening in the first place, is not only good government, it is good service to some of the most vulnerable members of the public.”

The coalition outlined its concerns Monday in a letter addressed to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill.

The letter defines synthetic identity theft as a ploy used by identity thieves to couple real Social Security numbers with fictitious names and birthdates to manufacture new identities.

Children and new immigrants are hit particularly hard as a thief may already have used their newly minted Social Security number and immediately put the consumer at an unfair disadvantage that could take years to repair.

The attorneys general urge Social Security to prioritize its verification systems to accept electronic signatures or other verified methods so that financial institutions and others can quickly verify identity or flag theft in real-time.

West Virginia signed onto the Kansas- and Oregon-led letter with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Submitted by the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.