Difficulty with Social Security’s sign-in process

Question: Last month I tried to contact Social Security ‑ they never picked up the phone on their end. The same with the IRS. When I finally got through, they said I had to join ID.me before they could help me. That took me over a week, and many applications and rejects, to get through. The last step was holding up my Social Security card and my driver’s license on a Zoom call to an ID.me representative. I found this very peculiar — why do I have to go through this place to get information from my government agencies? Now I am receiving catalog offers to buy things from ID.me online. I think this is very strange and out of line. How do I get unregistered from this place? I am very afraid they will share my information with the world. Is this a government agency and why do we have to register there, only to have offers to buy things? Signed: Frustrated Senior

Dear Frustrated: Many others have shared with us their frustration when seeking enrollment in the federal government’s newest credential verification programs so, though I know it’s no comfort, you are not alone.

Social Security has, since Sept. 18, 2021, required all newly created online accounts to use either ID.me or Login.gov to authenticate the user’s identity. “ID.me” is a private company contracted by the government to ensure that you are who you say you are, thus avoiding any fraudulent activities. Login.gov is the government’s own authentication program set up to allow access to multiple government agencies for the same purpose. The intent of both is to give you one set of sign in credentials which can be used to access multiple government agencies, rather than a unique login procedure for each agency. And, most importantly, the purpose is to protect you from any fraudulent activities which could cause you financial harm. Rest assured that your personal information is safe using either of these government-sponsored methods to verify your identity for government business.

Those who have a “my Social Security” account set up before September 2021 can still use their previous SSA-unique identity verification method (a “2-factor ID process”) to access their “my Social Security” online account. This method is as secure as the newer methods but is only good for accessing your Social Security account (not the IRS or any other government agency). Nevertheless, creating a new online Social Security account now requires you use the government’s current identity verification methods— either ID.meor Login.gov. If you select ID.me (a private company) you do have control over the type of communication you receive from them and can opt out of receiving any offers for additional services. To do so, it is basically a matter of signing into your ID.me account, accessing your Profile, and selecting “Unsubscribe All” in the Preferences section. And in the meantime, you can also select “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of any promotional email you receive from ID.me.