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Protecting State Pensions Requires Trustworthy Digital Identity

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The FBI’s latest statistics reveal a startling 84 percent rise in elder fraud cases in 2022, with over $3.1 billion stolen, a significant portion of which is attributed to pensions fraud.

This particular kind of exploitation not only depletes the financial reserves of state pension funds but also inflicts profound emotional distress on the victims, who suffer a loss of dignity and financial stability after a lifetime of hard work. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft victims report feelings of embarrassment, shame, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By adopting cutting-edge technology for digital identity verification, state pension fund administrators can pre-emptively thwart fraudulent activity. Sophisticated verification systems are essential in ensuring that disbursements reach legitimate beneficiaries only, thereby fortifying protections for the financial foundation that many retirees currently rely on.

The enormity of assets held in pension funds is staggering, with trillions at stake. Such wealth is a honeypot for fraudsters, and these funds’ intricate, dispersed nature complicates fraud detection. Accurate and timely maintenance of beneficiary records, particularly death notices, remains a key vulnerability – any lapse can provide a windfall for criminals. Additionally, pensions are not monitored as rigorously as active investment accounts, allowing fraud to go undetected for longer.

To counter these challenges, modern identity verification systems must be the cornerstone of state pension fund administration. New approaches to digital identity verification analyze extensive data points to ensure that only legitimate beneficiaries access pension funds. This includes analyzing an array of data points from traditional identifiers (name, birth date, etc.) to non-traditional behavioral and device data points (IP address, typing speed, mouse movement, etc.). These solutions can better detect potential fraud, like an active account of a supposedly deceased individual.

Additionally, we don’t know what we don’t measure. Therefore, state pension fund administrators should require rigorous performance-based evaluations of digital identity solutions. Through systemic testing for accuracy, precision, security, and equity, administrators can gain a clear picture of both the efficacy of fraud prevention measures and the user experience for legitimate recipients. Fraud techniques are ever-evolving, and we need to stay one step ahead. Access to performance metrics will ensure that the best technologies are employed to keep fraudsters at bay while giving rightful beneficiaries unfettered, frictionless access.

The battle against pension fraud also calls for a collaborative approach. Fraudsters are more connected than ever before, sharing information, playbooks, and other techniques on the dark web. So, administrators should work across state lines and levels of government to identify common fraud techniques, repeat offenders, and develop innovative solutions. Creating an information-sharing network will help curb fraud, safeguard beneficiaries’ financial security, and preserve the integrity of pension systems. A more coordinated defense can significantly impede the activities of fraudsters.

Education is another powerful tool in the fight. Government leaders should work to educate retirees about common fraud schemes, like romance scams or grandparent scams. Informing retirees about prevalent fraud tactics empowers them to protect their identities and, by extension, their pensions. Many states have already created awareness campaigns to educate older Americans about the warning signs of scams before they become victims.

The evolving threat to pension funds requires a dynamic and multi-faceted response. Leveraging advanced technology for digital identity verification stands as a pillar in protecting the hard-earned retirements of pensioners. It’s not only about securing assets; it’s about preserving trust in the system that millions have dedicated their lives to building.

Jennifer Kerber previously served in the U.S. General Services Administration Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies and as executive director of the Government Transformation Initiative. She is currently a senior director at Socure, a provider of digital identity verification and fraud solutions.

Socure is the leading platform for digital identity verification and trust. Its predictive analytics platform applies artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques with trusted online/offline data intelligence from physical government-issued documents as well as email, phone, address, IP, device, velocity, date of birth, SSN, and the broader internet to verify identities in real time. The company has more than 1,400 customers across the financial services, government, gaming, healthcare, telecom, and e-commerce industries, including four of the top five banks, 13 of the top 15 card issuers, the top three MSBs, the top payroll provider, the top credit bureau, the top online gaming operator, the top Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) providers, and over 250 of the largest fintechs. Marquee customers include Chime, SoFi, Robinhood, Gusto, Public, Stash, DraftKings, State of California, and Florida’s Homeowner Assistance Fund. Socure customers have become investors in the company including Citi Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Capital One Ventures, MVB Bank, and Synchrony. Additional investors include Accel, T. Rowe Price, Bain Capital Ventures, Tiger Global, Commerce Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, Sorenson, Flint Capital, Two Sigma Ventures, and others.