Social Security Numbers: Improved SSN Verification and Exchange of States' Driver Records Would Enhance Identity Verification

GAO-03-920 Published: Sep 15, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2003.
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Highlights

Since September 11, 2001, more attention has been focused on the importance of identifying people who use false identity information or documents to obtain a driver license. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers states a service to verify social security numbers (SSNs) collected during the driver licensing process. This report examines states' use of SSA's verification service, factors that may affect the usefulness of the service, and other tools states use or need to verify identity.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
In light of the homeland security implications associated with states' inability to systematically exchange driver license identity information and the need for sustained leadership in this area, the Congress, in partnership with the states, may wish to consider authorizing the development of a national data sharing system for driver records.
Closed – Implemented
In line with GAO's recommendation, in May 2005 Congress enacted legislation requiring states to electronically share information on all driver records.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Social Security Administration Considering the significant increase in the number of on-line requests that SSA anticipates receiving from states, as well as the weaknesses that we identified in SSA's service that may increase states' vulnerability to identity fraud, the Commissioner of Social Security should develop performance measures essential to assessing the quality of the service provided.
Closed – Implemented
SSA has established measures to assess its performance for the online verification service. Driver licensing agencies that use SSA's online verification service submit requests to, and receive responses from, SSA through a network maintained by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). As of mid-2004, SSA had established a goal of responding to 95 percent of all requests within 5 seconds or less from the time AAMVA submits them to SSA and responding to the balance within 10 seconds or less.
Social Security Administration Considering the significant increase in the number of on-line requests that SSA anticipates receiving from states, as well as the weaknesses that we identified in SSA's service that may increase states' vulnerability to identity fraud, the Commissioner of Social Security should develop a strategy for improving the nonmatch rate for SSA's verification service. This should include identifying additional information it can reasonably and legally disclose to state driver-licensing agencies as well as actions states can take to prevent nonmatches.
Closed – Not Implemented
SSA has not taken any actions to date to work with the states to explore options for reducing the nonmatch rate.
Social Security Administration Considering the significant increase in the number of on-line requests that SSA anticipates receiving from states, as well as the weaknesses that we identified in SSA's service that may increase states' vulnerability to identity fraud, the Commissioner of Social Security should modify SSA's batch verification method to include a match against its nationwide death records
Closed – Implemented
In late 2004 SSA initiated actions to modify its batch SSN verification method, as GAO recommended. As of March 6, 2006, SSA had implemented the software that revised its batch SSN verification method and began informing driver licensing agencies when the SSNs for which they request verification belonged to individuals who SSA's records indicate are deceased. This will help states be alert to customers who may be fraudulently using a deceased person's identity information to obtain a driver license.

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