House Panel Advances Social Security Identity Theft Bills


The House Ways and Means Committee passed two bills Wednesday to help victims whose Social Security numbers have been compromised, as one advocate called such identity theft scams an “epidemic.”

The Improving Social Security’s Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act, H.R. 3784, introduced by Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., would provide for a single point of contact at the Social Security Administration for individuals who have been victims of identity theft.

In 2022, there were over 1,800 reported data breaches, more than 1,100 of which included SSNs, impacting roughly 422 million individual records, according to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.

The Social Security Child Protection Act of 2023, H.R. 3667, introduced by Reps. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would direct the SSA to issue a new Social Security number to a child under 14 if that child’s Social Security card was stolen while being sent.

Smith noted that before the SSA will issue a new SSN, “current SSA policy requires a numberholder to not only show that their SSN has been misused by a third party, but also that this misuse caused actual harm or disadvantaged the numberholder.”

According to a recent report, roughly 1.25 million children were the victims of identity fraud in 2021, Smith said.

Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the committee’s top Democrat, said Wednesday during the markup that the bills on identity theft are “modest, non-controversial,” but noted the looming threats to Social Security in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s recent call for “another closed-door commission to fast-track cuts” in the program.

“Passing today’s bills will not take Social Security off Republicans’ chopping block,” Neal said.

Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, told on Wednesday in an email that “there’s an out of control epidemic of Social Security identity theft scams. Unknown callers claiming to be from Social Security. In fact many of us don’t even answer certain types of calls anymore — especially this type.”

While there’s a need for SSA to have a process regarding identity theft, “I question whether it’s necessary for Congress to legislate the process,” Johnson said. “It seems to me that process is the responsibility of the Social Security Administration.”

If H.R. 3784 addresses a recommendation of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “then perhaps there is a need for members of Congress to provide better oversight,” Johnson said. “However, what’s more telling is what the legislation DOES NOT address.”

Johnson explained that there’s a “very real need” for:

  • Clear language “defining Social Security identity theft as a federal crime and stronger penalties and punishments”;

  • Giving real antifraud enforcement muscle to the SSA identity-theft contact point created under the bill; and

  • “Funding for tougher antifraud enforcement, including taking down the infernal robocall scammers.”