Reissuing Tamper-Resistant Cards Will Not Eliminate Misuse of Social Security Numbers

HRD-81-20: Published: Dec 23, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 5, 1981.

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The social security number (SSN) has become a widespread means of identification in the United States. As its use as an identifier has grown, so has the opportunity for its misuse, often to fraudulently obtain employment or monetary benefits. GAO reported on whether there is a need for redesigning and reissuing tamper-resistant social security cards to prevent misuse of the card, and the appropriateness of using social security trust funds to pay for such reissuance.

GAO found that reissuing the cards will not correct the underlying conditions contributing to social security number and card misuse. For instance, it will not prevent individuals from obtaining social security numbers using false identity documents or from using someone else's number and card. Furthermore, neither the Social Security Administration (SSA) nor other public or private entities would benefit appreciably from such reissuance. Therefore, GAO questioned whether the cost of reissuing the cards, which would be at least $850 million and could be as much as $2 billion, is justifiable. Additionally, from a logistical standpoint, reissuance may not be practicable and may cause adverse public reaction. GAO found that SSA has taken other steps to strengthen the integrity of the social security numbering system. Currently, all applicants requesting original social security numbers must submit documentary evidence of age, identity, and citizenship or alien status along with the application. SSA has identified many fraudulently obtained numbers in its system but has not flagged them for SSA and other agency uses. Some of the problems contributing to social security number and card misuses are beyond the control or authority of SSA.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Congress should enact legislation similar that proposed, making it a felony to fraudulently obtain or use one or more SSNs or to alter, reproduce, counterfeit, buy, or sell the SSN or card.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to further strengthen the integrity of the SSN system by encouraging the states to tighten their controls over vital statistics records since state programs can be adversely affected by SSN misuse.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to further strengthen the integrity of the SSN system by flagging identified fraudulently obtained SSNs currently in the system for SSA and other agency uses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to further strengthen the integrity of the SSN system by placing the SSN application forms and cards under tighter controls.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to further strengthen the integrity of the SSN system by providing training to social security field office personnel to enable them to more readily detect fraudulent evidentiary documents submitted with SSN applications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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