WASHINGTON—Data obtained from the Social Security Administration revealed 39 million instances where names and Social Security numbers on W-2 forms didn’t match corresponding Social Security records, according to a report by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) published on Sept. 11.
The IRLI said the cases occurred between 2012 and 2016, after former President Barack Obama stopped the practice of sending “no match” letters to employers, in cases where the name and number don’t match up on W-2 forms.
The IRLI points to illegal immigrants as the main culprits.
“Importantly, the Obama administration decided to discontinue the decades-old practice of ‘no-match’ letters within eight days after it implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty for illegal aliens,” the IRLI said. “Some have said that Obama did this because he didn’t want DACA applicants scared off from the program for fear of identity-theft prosecution.”
The Social Security Administration cited a number of reasons for mismatches, including typos, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records. It didn’t mention identity theft.
Jessica Vaughan, policy director at Center for Immigration Studies, said illegal immigrants are one of the “very common” groups involved in identity theft, but it’s not very widely reported on.
“For a long time, particularly under the Obama administration, the attitude was that people in the country illegally were forced into this criminal activity because they had no other way to work here,” Vaughan said in a June 27 interview. “The crime itself is really swept under the rug. It was considered victimless, harmless, just something that they had to do to support their families, and the victims were largely ignored.”
Victims of social security number theft often don’t find out for many years afterwards because it may not show up in a consumer’s credit report, and the Social Security Administration doesn’t notify people if it detects that a number has been compromised.
Victims may apply for a mortgage and get turned down and have no idea why, Vaughan said. In Utah, young children who had social security numbers were being denied social services such as Head Start or a nutrition program because someone stole their number and was earning money under it.
The Trump administration has announced that beginning in spring 2019, it will resume sending notifications to employers if a mismatch on a W-2 form is discovered.