Social Security Administration Hides Corruption: Restricts FOI Request
The Social Security Administration has been exposed as having a toxic culture; they protect incompetence within the agency, refuse to engage in dialogue which would require accountability, attack anyone who would dare challenge competence or integrity of an employee, deny that any SSA employee is complicit with criminal fraud activity, and shield SSA from any attempt of transparency.
For the past two years, I have been involved in exposing malfeasance in a federal program, Direct Express, which was created by Bureau of Fiscal Service (BFS, Dept of Treasury). This program, administered by the contract holder (Comerica Bank and its subcontractor Conduent) is a debit card program from which federal payments (Social Security, Veterans Administration, Civil Service, Railroad, and others) are made available on the Direct Express debit card rather than a bank account or alternative debit card. Comerica Bank offered no transaction alerts on the Direct Express card and violated Regulation E (federal banking law). BFS was well aware of the lack of oversight, hiding this malfeasance from the public.
In comes Social Security System Administration employees and denial of complicity in ignoring or involvement with identity fraud. Direct Express cardholders have been victimized by fraud on their accounts. Many have had their addresses fraudulently changed at SSA, then the fraudster communicates the address change to the Direct Express program (Comerica Bank) to have a new card issued to the new address. When the fraudster receives the new Direct Express card (unknown to the original cardholder) the fraudster uses the new card at the designated time of the month (usually the third of the month) to withdraw money before the original cardholder knows the money is missing. This transaction can take place thousands of miles from the address of the original cardholder. Once the original cardholder realizes their money is missing, they contact the subcontractor Conduent to report the crime and have a new card issued. Conduent is rarely efficient in handling this process, but we are now focusing on SSA transparency and accountability.
I experienced the exact scenario: I was a Direct Express cardholder. On June 29, 2018 a fraudster contacted SSA, changed my address, and I was fortunate to have discovered the fraud within 5 days of the crime during an chance visit to a local SSA office. I reinstated the correct address before suffering any loss. Over the past 18 months many requests have been made by me to determine how the fraudster communicated with SSA to make the change. Was my address changed by email, an online account, regular mail, by telephone, or some other method?
For well over a year SSA refused to reveal the requested information. I did not ask for the identity of any suspected complicit employee, only the method. Many emails and letters were sent to SSA, and eventually a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was made. Initially SSA denied the FOI request. Persistence prevailed. After being denied the FOI request on more than one occasion, a subsequent request generated a response from an FOI official: SSA had conducted an “investigation and conducted meetings” on the matter and stated via email that if I wanted to know how my account was compromised I would have to pay $1,444.00 for 29 hours of their “work” to determine how my address was changed. This was SSA’s version of “we will charge a ridiculous fee and the victim will never pay to get the information.”
All an SSA employee needed to do was to go to my account, see the date of the address change (which I furnished), and see how it was changed. This did not take 29 hours of work. If the fraudster communicated with a criminal employee of SSA, all the fraudster would need to do is give my proprietary information to a corrupt or incompetent SSA employee and that employee would have it changed. The network of fraudsters allows crimes to happen and SSA is not exempt, but SSA is deterring me from information on MY account.
Lack of accountability and transparency does not exist in SSA. They protect their own. When I brought up the matter on LinkedIn, I was attacked by a male SSA employee. He said things he would never say to my face (or he would not say it twice). The matter has now been sent to and official of Office of Inspector General of SSA with whom I have communicated for over a year.
The lesson for everyone is not to give up when you are dealing with federal officials who conceal their corrupt activities. Keep pushing.