To the editor:
I recently tried to open an online personal Social Security account. Although I responded correctly to all of the requests for required information, the system immediately told me, without giving a reason, that I could not open such an account.
A man who answered a Social Security phone line told me that I would have to contact Equifax, since the rejection had come through that company. So I wrote to Equifax, following all their online complaint guidelines regarding required information, explaining that I had not used a credit card for several decades and had had no debts whatsoever for many years.
Equifax responded in a timely manner, but I could not make head nor tail of the response, although I could see that nothing in it pertained to my particular complaint.
A helpful member of Congressman Engel’s staff, in his Johnson Avenue office, quickly found on the internet a report from 2016 announcing that Equifax had received a no-bid $10 million contract with Social Security, supposedly to detect fraud.
The staff member also learned that in addition to my not having a credit history as a likely reason for my rejection by Social Security/Equifax, if one does not open an online Social Security account when one first starts receiving Social Security checks, one cannot ever open such an account.
I noted to the staff member that nobody ever advised me of that rule. “You can find it in the section about fraud in the Social Security web site,” he told me. Since I had no reason to think about fraud, why would I ever have looked at that part of the site?
I find it impossible to believe that someone without credit may not open an online Social Security account, and Social Security techies cannot figure out a way to determine that someone like me — a law-abiding citizen who has been receiving Social Security checks via direct deposit for more than six years — is who I say I am and not someone trying to perpetrate online fraud.
Parenthetically, the congressman’s staff member also told me that the fraud divisions of both the Social Security Administration and Medicare had been substantially reduced in recent years.
What is wrong with this picture?