New Social Security Rule Requires Text-Enabled Cellphones to Access Online Services

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) September 27, 2016 – The Social Security Administration (SSA) has introduced a controversial new measure to improve website security.

Individuals who want to manage their benefits online are now required to provide a cellphone number in order to access their “my Social Security” accounts. In addition to their username and password, users must enter an eight-digit security code sent by a text message to their cellphone. A new code is required each time someone logs on to the SSA website as it is valid for only 10 minutes.

Such security practices — known as multifactor authentication — are commonly used by banks, businesses and other organizations in order to protect users and limit unauthorized access. However, they are usually optional. Previously the use of texted codes was optional for SSA users seeking additional security. The extra step is mandatory as of July 30.

“Enhancing online security is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting users,” said David W. Magann, a prominent attorney in Tampa, Florida, whose firm specializes in Social Security disability law. “However, the SSA should also accommodate beneficiaries who do not own cellphones or text messaging services. Otherwise they risk losing access to their online accounts.”

The requirement has been criticized as not everyone owns cellphones, has text-enabled phones or has access to a reliable cellphone service. Older Americans who do not use cellphones for texting are especially likely to experience frustration. According to the Pew Research Center, around 78 percent of adults age 65 and older own a cellphone as of 2015.

The SSA said it added the authentication process to comply with an executive order requiring federal agencies to boost security for their online services. However, it admitted the new security layer could pose problems for some people.

“We understand that not everyone has a cellphone or cell service,” said Social Security spokeswoman Roxanne Williamson. “This is our first step in adding security, and we expect future enhancements will provide other options.” The SSA said it was currently unable to offer alternatives “due to technical and resource constraints.”

Beneficiaries can use their online accounts to update their address, request replacement Social security cards and change payment direct deposits. Individuals can also log on to their account to view an estimate of future benefit payments. Those without an online account can contact the SSA by phone or email, or visit their local office.

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548
Loading RSS Feed