As the Social Security Administration strives to serve more customers online, the agency and current and future Social Security beneficiaries face the growing threat of cyber attacks. Social Security identified nearly 63,000 likely fraudulent online benefit applications in fiscal 2018, according to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General, up from just 89 in fiscal 2015. From February 2013 to February 2016 (the most recent data available), the Inspector General received more than 58,000 fraud allegations related to My Social Security accounts—an issue that persists today, according to the OIG. Meanwhile, there has been exponential growth in Social Security imposter scams, in which fraudsters claiming to be Social Security staffers contact victims—often via robocalls—and try to extract money or personal details. More than 35,000 people reported such scams in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission, up from 3,200 a year earlier.
These days, it’s tough to avoid dealing with Social Security online. But when you understand Social Security’s cyber security strengths and weaknesses, there are steps you can take to safeguard your personal information, keep close tabs on your benefits, and with any luck, ward off the fraudsters.
As of July 2018, nearly 38 million people had created My Social Security accounts at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. The portal allows you to view your earnings record and benefit payment history and change your address or direct deposit information, among other services. But the accounts have proven tempting to fraudsters. One issue: Social Security needs to “improve its identity verification controls to ensure users are who they claim to be,” the OIG said in a September Congressional testimony. Indeed, crooks don’t have to be terribly sophisticated to set up an account in someone else’s name, cyber security experts say. Recent efforts to beef up My Social Security account security may slow down hackers who try to break into other people’s accounts, but they’re no cure-all, cyber security experts and the OIG say.
For the full article, including tips for maintaining good security on the My Social Security website, go to Kiplinger.com.