DHS grant to help eliminate client ID theft

The Michigan Department of Human Services has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help clients avoid identity theft within their DHS food assistance program (FAP) accounts.

The grant, part of the United States Department of Commerce and its National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) will help DHS pilot a major new automated initiative aimed at assisting clients in establishing their identity and avoiding longer waits and other issues related to cyber fraud.

Michigan currently ranks 4th nationally for identity theft complaints.* Pennsylvania shares in this latest cyber-security grant. More on the actual awards can be found at http://www.nist.gov/itl/nstic-092313.cfm.

The objective of the new initiative isn’t to prevent or slow down a new application for benefits, but to remove applications from the need for a manual review, thus providing the client with a quick and accurate way to prove their identity.

“We have made a special effort to detect fraud upfront, at the time of application for benefits,” said Maura Corrigan, DHS Director. “But we know that many clients are themselves victims of identity theft. Thanks to this generous grant, the new system will help us verify and authenticate those who desire a more streamlined process at the beginning, benefitting the client and DHS.”

With the NSTIC funding, DHS officials say the agency will work directly with LexisNexis, known for its data and analytics solutions to help government and industry assess, predict, and manage risk, and Deloitte Consulting will work with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget to modify the current system in order to pilot the automatic online identity authentication system.

DHS is currently working on drafting a waiver to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use automatic online software to screen for identity theft. Other states, like Florida, have also recently begun pilot programs aimed at verifying client security and identity when an application is made for benefits.

“Solving the issue of false identity and identity theft is a crucial one for our agency in the days to come,” said Duane Berger, DHS Chief Deputy. “Right now, we receive half of our public assistance applications online. With that number growing each day, it’s imperative that we make certain we know who are clients are and, more importantly–who they are not.”

The Michigan Department of Human Services plans to integrate the auto-verification process using LexisNexis early in 2014 after testing of the new system has been completed.

*Source: Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book January-December 2012, page 15

For more information on the Department of Human Services, go to www.michigan.gov/dhs.