When even the Social Security system isn’t safe from the creep of technology takeover, any senior would be forgiven for being disappointed – frustrated even – with their options for accessing their own Social Security accounts.
Last month, a process went into effect that requires federal agencies to ramp up security for online services. Proponents defend the new measures as critical to protecting user and information privacy – including a requirement that any Social Security account user provide more than a username and password to access online information, specifically entering security codes that generate cell phone text messages.
That’s a major hang-up for many of the 26 million people who created Social Security Administration (SSA) accounts since May 2012 when online access first became available.
It wasn’t that long ago that the majority of us relied on landlines. The shift to cell phones was thorough and significant. But it is by no means complete. Seniors have been particularly late to adopting the technology.
According to the Pew Research Center, although more than half of all Americans have a smartphone, just 18% of older adults own one – a percentage that has risen only slightly from 11% in April 2011. Yes, most seniors have a cell phone, but the vast majority of the devices are the most basic of tools, not necessarily capable of sending and receiving texts.
Although SSA leadership admits this is a concern, there is little in the way of recourse for most folks.
For now, the SSA has removed the security code requirement and, instead, is making a now-optional security measure for those with text-capable cell phones while other avenues are being pursued.
However, the new extra layer of security, known as “multifactor authentication,” is meant to be mandatory for agencies that provide online access to customers’ private information. Although the SSA is easing the requirement for now, it’s only a temporary reprieve for those without text-capable cell phones. Non-smartphone users who want SSA account access may want to reconsider their devices, as the enhanced security trend is not likely to change.
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