The Social Security Number (SSN) is the primary element of identification in the various earnings and benefit payment records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is the record identifier used to ensure proper payment of benefits in both the Title II and Title XVI programs.
The SSN plays a vital role in electronic enforcement programs and record linkages, such as Project Match, which are designed to identify instances of improper payments. Given this reliance on the SSN, social security programs are susceptible to fraud when multiple numbers are employed by individuals intent on securing duplicate payments or concealing income. Not only would the use of multiple SSN's facilitate initial deceptions but it would also inhibit subsequent detection under the various electronic enforcement programs.
The impact of SSN misuse pervades nearly all facets of today's automated record keeping society. The SSN is used as a personal identifier, either in the application or record keeping processes, by most Federal and state agencies administering benefit programs, the United States Internal Revenue Service, many state Departments of Motor Vehicles, credit corporations and insurance companies. Accordingly, the SSN is the key to unlimited opportunities for fraud and abuse. The SSA is strengthening its procedures dealing with the issuance of SSNs and has made a firm commitment to vigorously investigate SSN misuse. Although these cases may involve little or no overpayment, United States Attorneys (USAs) are encouraged to prosecute SSN violations whenever possible.
Title XVI of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.), Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") program, provides payments of benefits from general revenues to the needy, aged, blind and disabled. Title II of the Act (42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq.), provides benefits from trust funds to retired and disabled individuals, their survivors and dependents. Over $11.5 billion per month to almost 34 million beneficiaries is paid by SSA under these two programs alone.
Attempts to defraud occur in connection with applications (claims) for benefits and documents submitted in support thereof. Most violations under Title XVI involve false statements about or concealment of an individual's financial condition (42 U.S.C. § 138a(1)-(3)). Most violations under Title II involve false statements about or concealment of work activity affecting initial or continuing eligibility for disability benefits, changes in marital status, and misuse of benefits by representative payees (42 U.S.C. § 408). The felony provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 408 punish the making of false statements to secure benefits or obtain higher benefits, the conversion of another's benefits, and the use of false SSNs to obtain benefits.There is also a statute that covers the unauthorized charging of a fee for services in connection with a claim under both titles (42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(3) for Title XVI and 42 U.S.C. § 406(a) for Title II). Felony statutes such as 18 U.S.C. §§ 287, 371, and 1001 are also applicable for both programs and have been used successfully.