Social Security online accounts: safe from identity theft?

More than 34 million Americans now conduct business with the Social Security Administration (SSA) online – and with that shift comes an increased risk of identity theft.

For many, a MySSA account now is the only way to obtain an estimate of future benefits, since the agency no longer regularly mails annual benefit statements. MySSA also offers the convenience of handling routine paperwork online, and the ability to update the address on file for your account or start or change direct deposit of benefits.

The SSA receives more than half of all retirement and disability benefit applications via the internet, according to a report last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That is up from negligible numbers a decade ago.

The shift is part of a broader technology modernization drive at the SSA, but it also is an attempt to cope with rising demand for its services during a time of relentless cuts to its administrative budget by Congress.

The SSA’s operating budget has been cut 11 percent from 2010 to 2017 in inflation-adjusted terms. At the same time, the demand for the SSA services from the public has been hitting record highs as the baby boom generation ages into retirement.

But in an age of hacking and identity theft, moving Social Security online also increases risk – and it is difficult to imagine a hacking target more attractive than the SSA.

Learn more at Reuters Money.

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