Dear Social Security Administration … I am me.

Dear Social Security Administration website

In general, the difference between the good and the great can sometimes be a matter of how effectively you sweat the little things, the things that actually matter to people at the human-level interface. We call this the tactical user-level interface. Sometimes this is the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. This difference matters for any brand.

Today’s brand example is the US government. Specifically the Social Security Administration, a part of the government I have never harbored any animosity toward … until last week.

I am me.

I was asked to retrieve my social security benefit amount and retirement age. The Social Security Administration no longer mails out statements. That’s a good thing, since a few hundred million statements equate to a LOT of paper. Instead, they recommend that you obtain this information from their website, ssa.gov, which I proceeded to attempt to do. A banner headline greets me on a responsive, seemingly newly minted website with words like “just how easy it is to apply online.”

Please understand, I have registered on many (too many) websites before. I use the web. The web is a big part of my business. More than one hundred thousand people read this blog last year. I am not a newbie … and I failed to successfully register. Twice.

I failed not because the website was poorly designed or hard to use. It’s actually very good overall. I failed because I could not answer all the security questions they asked in order to verify that I am me.

I called the Social Security Administration and got the information I needed over the phone from a very friendly and personable representative. This was relatively easy and did not require that I divulge much information.

Phone easy. Website hard. I don’t see the efficiency in this.

Phone easy. Website hard. I don’t see the efficiency in this. And yet, a clearly stated value of their website (and your website) is to make things easier for me (as well as to save paper and money through the efficiency that is a fundamental benefit of doing such things as obtaining your records online instead of through the mail.)

In the call, I also asked about the website and whether she knew of other complaints. She was not forthcoming on this. I felt responsible to tell her they were being inefficient by making me call her. When I went on to tell her that I think the information they have about me—the information that I needed to know in order to satisfy them and prove that I am me—might be wrong, she told me I would have to contact the credit bureaus to correct anything. When I asked if I could register a personal complaint about the website not serving me well, she said no. They were recording my call, but I wonder if they are tracking the volume of failed attempts to register on the site?

She was kind enough to unlock my account so that I could try again to register on the website.

I did try again, being VERY careful…to…get…every…thing…right. I even looked stuff up on Google about myself to ensure its veracity.

I am not me enough to access my social security data.

I failed. I got locked out a second time.
I am not me enough to access my social security data.
Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who does not, off the top of my head, know the model year of the car I once owned while in grad school.

My wife also needed data from them, so she gave the website registration process a good college try (she does have a graduate degree).

She got locked out … and she was done. She was not going to bother with that ever again.

How much is such animosity worth?

Social Security is a good thing. The Social Security Administration is a government agency that I should have positive feelings for.

So why this?

The lady on the phone said it was for security. In this case apparently, to protect my data … from me

The lady on the phone said it was for security. In this case apparently, to protect my data … from me.

I wonder what percentage of potential accessors of their data have tried to pass through this particular security gauntlet and have, like my wife and I, failed and then just given up. Admittedly, this is not a critical service like obtaining healthcare coverage through a government exchange, but still, this is something I should be able to easily obtain … of the people, by the people and for the people and all that. Is—as this hot new Princeton study (PDF) suggests—democracy as we thought it existed in America just wishful thinking? Is my situation just a byproduct of poor user-testing on a well-intentioned and generally well-designed website, or is it a symptom of something larger? I hope it’s the former. I hope it’s just something they haven’t gotten to yet.

To reiterate my opener: I believe that, in general, the difference between the good and the great can sometimes be how effectively seemingly minor things are attended to. On the positive side, these things can be a trim tab. On the negative side, they can be an incitement to animosity and even brand disavowal. This is an example of one of those places. I want us to be great. I want government to work. I want to believe it exists to serve, desires to be efficient, and is supporting the greater good. Perhaps this is why this situation upsets me. It’s an affront to my sense of pride.

The Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? effect

In case anyone is interested, here is the problem with the Social Security Administration website’s registration security protocols from a usability (UX) standpoint: It’s something we could call the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? effect.

Many of you have seen or heard of the TV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? It was popular in the early 2000s and from its origins in the UK, eventually spread all over the world. It’s even the context of the Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

The game was simple. Fifteen seemingly easy multiple-choice questions were asked of contestants who, if they could answer all of them, would win $1,000,000. Part of the entertainment value of the show was how easy many of the questions were. The trick was that getting ALL of a series of fifteen—even relatively easy—questions correct was actually much more difficult than it sounded. To spice things up and enhance the gameplay, the game also had three “lifelines” to help the contestants. These were call a friend, ask the audience, and half the options.

The fact is that no, I don’t remember the model year of the car I bought in 1996.

My thought during my second unsuccessful attempt to get all the security questions correct on the Social Security website was this: I need a lifeline. No, I thought, I do not remember the model year of the car I bought in 1996, but I do know a lot of other things about myself! Maybe I could call my college girlfriend about the car …

My more serious point is that The People’s relationship to their government is actually a very important matter in a functioning democracy. So is access to our own publicly held data. Even if I don’t stand to collect a million dollars at the end of my working life, I do want to be able to learn what my Social Security income will be, and I should be able to do so without inordinate and unnecessary frustration.

Nothing is worse for a brand than to be hated or misunderstood because of a poorly executed or thoughtlessly designed tactical user-level interface.

I’m about twenty years from my official, gradually rising retirement age, and it’s natural for me to be thinking about it more as the year approaches. I asked a few of my friends to try their luck with registering on the Social Security Administration website (please try yours and tell me how it goes). My suspicion is that the older you are—and the more you actually need the information—the less likely you will be able to get it from the website. Among my friends and colleagues, the failure rate so far has been 66.6%. This is no joke if you extrapolate that out across the entire working-age population of the United States.

So what flower of wisdom has grown out of the ashes of my frustration? Other than an inferior product, there is almost nothing worse for a brand than inattention to the tactical user-level interface.

Now, excuse me while I attend to my civic duty as US citizen and web user …

Dear Social Security Administration:

Please sweat the details. Please make the online wall between me and my data easier to climb over. I grow tired quickly, as I am getting older now.

Sincerely,
James Heaton

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Comments

  1. Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko says:

    Absolutely vital points, James! If public authorities were just more ready to listen to this. There are severe problems in “tactical user-level interfaces” in practically all public services. And, as your story implies, this has a lot to do with brand problems of public sector organisations.

    1. Jabrea says:

      I can’t even log in to my social security account. It’s been years, like why is it so hard to just check up on my social security :/

  2. Jim says:

    I attempted to obtain Medicare Part D Prescription coverage. After experiencing similar frustration, I blocked out quiet time, phoned, and waited on hold. I too was greeted by a friendly, proficient woman on the phone call. When I apologized for not being able to utilize the website, she responded, “Oh no. You could never do that. We had three weeks of schooling to learn this”. These programs are simply too large for we the people to navigate. 🙂

  3. B.Chester says:

    There is a list of optional questions. You DON’T have to make it hard on yourself, UNLESS, of course, you want to. I only have a High School education and I didn’t have any problem at all, I also watched a buddy of mine accomplish the same thing with no issues. Move to a question you know the answer to, and your problem will be over.

    1. James Heaton says:

      B Chester: Thank you for your note, and I’m glad you were able to get in.

      On hearing your response I was hopeful that maybe they had made a change to the process to make it easier, so I went back and tried again (my third attempt)…and I was blocked. There were NO optional questions for me. Just as the first two times I tried, there were four questions seemingly pulled from my credit report, ALL of which I had to answer correctly in order to verify that I am me. This time the third question was one I could not answer: It asked for the date I opened a credit card from a particular bank. Unfortunately for me, I happen to have multiple credit cards with that bank, opened over the course of the last 25 years, so on that question I could only guess which of those credit cards they were referring to. I was thrown out for 24 hours.

      I continue to occasionally ask others to try, and sadly the percentage of failures among my peers has held.

      1. Leslie V says:

        I have tried 4 times and failed each time. It’s telling me I have a mortgage on a home. I do not. I have never owned a home. It said I have a car loan. I have never had a car loan in my life. It asked what street I used to live on. I lived on none of the streets provided. It’s really maddening.

        1. Merrill says:

          Yes, I also got locked. It said I also had taken out a mortgage loan in 2017. My mortgage was paid off 15 years ago. It asked about a student loan that I don’t have. Then I had to make an appointment to apply for Medicare because I don’t have enough points since I was a teacher. The first available appointment was over a month away.

        2. Julie says:

          I had the exact same experience as Leslie V. I have no mortgage and never did. I have no car loan and never did. I did not ever live on any of the streets that were listed. And I was given no optional questions. I also was locked out. Very frustrating, and also scary as it made me concerned that someone was using my social security number to get a mortgage and a car loan!!

        3. Connor F says:

          I am asked exactly the same questions of which my answer is “None of the Above” to every single one… I thought that maybe my identity had been stolen so I obtained my credit report and I most certainly have never had a mortgage, or auto loan…

          James, this is not only a problem for your generation. I am a 20 year old college student who has only ever had 4 credit cards yet I cannot create an account. You’d think I’d be asked a question about a credit card instead of my nonexistent mortgage and auto loan.

      2. Ben Baca says:

        I got blocked out too. The 4 questions they asked me were totally not related to anything recognizable in my past. My mortgage is paid off, but one of the questions was implying that I took out a mortgage in 2014. That has never happened. By selecting NONE OF THE ABOVE for an answer I was blocked out too, and I am trying to apply for benefits as I will be 65 in a month. I guess I am screwed. The other three questions were nothing I could relate to including an address I have never lived at. Yet another NONE OF THE ABOVE as an answer. I am beginning to think that the older you get the harder it is to get passed the questions just to get an account.

    2. Mavis says:

      I got a series of questions, answered “none of the above” and was locked out. I called the “help desk” and was told that Equifax gave the questions from my account history. I contacted Equifax and got my credit report. It is what I expected as I have lived in my own house almost 30 years, owe no one, have not had a credit card since the mid-80s and apparently, from their own file, not had my identity stolen. I contacted Equifax who explained that the questions were computer-generated (which database, he did not know) and “random” … as they don’t have much information on old dull me, they apparently had to make them up. My choice now is to wait the 4-6 weeks for Equifax to investigate my dispute or drive a few hours to a Social Security office to get a “pin” number to set up a “my Social Security account.” No one at Social Security apparently has the authority to straighten it out without Equifax even though I have my “credit history” in hand. And it is not a question of being hard but being wrong. I do know every name I have ever used, including my grandparents’ nickname for me. I know I have not had a mortgage in 50 years, nor have I ever leased a car, therefore I have no idea the monthly payment. By the time I fire off letters (snail mail) to everyone listed as a name associated with Social Security, it will hopefully keep someone else from the frustration.

      1. Rose says:

        I tried all 3 bureaus as well as Social Security and a failed authentication questionnaire. I actually had a prior Equifax report which I used to answer one of the questions because I did not have the information. I am aware questions are random; some apply and some do not. However, I found it concerning I failed all 3 bureaus as well as the Social Security Agency. The only things that come to mind as to why I have failed the questionnaire would be because the information the bureaus have on file is outdated, there has been fraud committed involving my SS or the website is bogged down. Additionally, since the 3 bureaus are separate entities, it would be hard to know who is reporting to what bureau. Placing alerts on your personal accounts, adding another security layer and monitoring your accounts weekly can help. Good luck to all.

  4. Dark Penguin says:

    The worst thing about all these questions is that you are SOL if you don’t remember EXACTLY how you entered your answers the first time. Did you grow up on a ST, Street, Lane, or LN? Were you born in L.A. or Los Angeles or New York City or NYC, or New York, NY? Did you graduate from a high school or an HS, or did you leave that part out when you entered the name of your school? You better be sure before you hit enter or else the part of the algorithm which holds the key will cast you deep into Lockout Land.

    And all that doesn’t even touch on the problem confronting many if not most women–that of having used different surnames in the past–a maiden name, then a married name. We’re going through this now with my wife, or at least we were until we–uh–got locked out while trying to register her on the website. No, she doesn’t remember how her name was styled on her SS card, which she hasn’t seen in a decade or two. (Nor I mine. I just have my SSN memorized and rattle it off when needed.) But with a maiden name, my surname, and her ex’s name, which she continued using for professional purposes, then allowing for hyphens/spaces, there are at least a half-dozen plausible versions that she might have used.

    THE SSA *knows* us fine. We went into our local office and got her SSRI set up; we’re expecting a substantial back payment any day now. That piece of business is done. But it would be nice to be able to log into the website, because then maybe we could discover when that payment will go out.

  5. John says:

    +1. I’ve been locked out after answering the questions accurately, but apparently, “incorrectly.” Offering a multiple choice for the year I refinanced my home doesn’t work if I refinanced 4 times (yay for low interest rates!). Having a single field for phone number is useless. It would be a little more helpful if they told me what year they got my phone number — at least then I could search through old emails to track down what my number was that year!

    Complexity in software that works is magic. Complexity in software that doesn’t work is torture. If you can’t make it work correctly 95% of the time, then just make it easy — have me enter a phone number and call me when you have an operator ready!

    1. James Heaton says:

      John, very nicely put! I’d hoped they would have fixed this by now…

  6. Sandy Klocinski says:

    I had the same problem. I did manage to get mine correct the 2nd time. The first time they asked me what year I opened a bank account (about 30 some years ago) and that I no longer have. I then tried to do my husband’s. (Yes, I know, technically illegal.) None of the questions were questions that were prior to my husband and I being married but one thing that tricked me up was that they asked me which street had we lived on…well they gave me 4 choices, one of which said Fawn. Well we lived on a street called Fawn Crest…so was this a trick question or what?

    Anyway, I answered none of the above…WRONG! I didn’t fare any better the next time and got locked out. Stupid system.

    Now I need to change his address since we moved…can’t. They won’t talk to me and he won’t call. You can’t do it by mail so exactly what am I supposed to do?

    I guess I will make my voice really deep and call and tell them I am him. If you think about it, they have no idea who they are talking to on the phone. I could have another man call and feed him the information he needed and they would change the address or reset the account for him but they won’t do it for me….not much security there…stupid, stupid, stupid!

  7. Abbie O'Gallagher says:

    Both my husband and I made multiple attempts to establish a My Social Security account online and failed every time. We ARE geezers but are both very computer literate. We failed every time. Our experiences were very similar to the ones the author of this article described.

  8. Dan S. says:

    I got my account set up the first time. I was lucky. I then tried to do it for my wife, since she hates stuff like this (as someone else said, technically illegal, but give me a break…) I entered *something* wrong on the personal verification section, and am waiting until 3:35PM today for the 24-hour lockout to expire, before trying again. I was going to call, but someone else has already stated they won’t do it for a spouse. Fooey – what nonsense!

    1. Clueless says:

      Amen.

    2. Sosecurity RejeKt says:

      Ditto to everything posted here except the lucky person who said it was easy. I have a graduate degree and I have been locked out twice. Scary that Big Brother knows way more about me than I do as does any other agency, corporation or computer clown out there. Now if I could just remember the passwords to my other retirement and bank accounts maybe I wouldn’t completely starve to death. 🙂

  9. Kathy says:

    Totally agree with all the comments! Locked out 6 or so times so far over the past few weeks.

    First 2 times was before I realized that you need to unlock your credit history with Equifax before trying to obtain the my SS account. Unlocked my credit and even ran both Experian and Equiax reports to help answer the questions. It locks every time even though I am answering the questions correctly.

    At some points it was not even getting me to the page of questions (just locking me out on the first page for name and address). Tried different browsers and different computers. Deleted cookies and browsing history. Closed browsers. Rebooted computers. (I too have many accounts with many different websites and never have issues like this). Got to the questions page again today and am locked out again. This even though I had two credit reports (Experian and Equifax) next to me to help me answer the questions.

    Now need to take off 1/2 day to go to the local Social Security office to prove who I am so I can get a copy of my social security report for my financial planner because they won’t mail me this information. Talk about design issues. Geesh….

    1. Michelle says:

      I hear you, same thing with me. Thought I knew who I was but according to SS I don’t. I have been locked out 5 times and been unblocked, I still can’t get signed up. I even printed my Credit Reports but the questions they are asking me don’t match the dates. So frustrating!

      I went to my social security office and there were about 100 people ahead of me. When I walked in, there was a big screen that wanted me to enter my social security number so I could get a ticket. I looked around and thought “you must be nuts”— enter my social security number so it could be viewed by anyone near me, you have got to be kidding.

      2 Weeks later, still no access. Whoever designed this must be the architect of ObamaCare’s site!

  10. James says:

    My wife needed her Social Security statement for her financial advisor. She attempted to retrieve it from the Social Security website and was asked questions from her credit report. She answered all of the questions with answers that were 100% true. Some of the answers were “none of the above.” The result is… “We have suspended your electronic access to your personal information. …Please verify your personal information again before trying to use this online service.” So…because is seems that some detail logged by someone somewhere at a credit bureau (we are not told which one) is wrong she cannot access her Social Security records. She is asked to verify her “personal information.” Is this instruction to go gumshoe all her credit reports to find out what they have gotten wrong, and figure out how to fix that, then fix it and when all that is done come back and try again? Is that verifying her personal information? Or is this just an existential admonishment: “You must know your true self better.” Your genuine truth not being relevant or of value in this case. Sigh.

  11. Sue says:

    I too – became locked out from failed attempts. The questions were so nebulous! They all sounded like they could be right, but I wasn’t sure. Each question asked a number of things, so any one of those things could be inaccurate. The name of the mortgage company from 17 years ago, the month it was acquired, and the exact year. Yes or no? I spent the better part of the afternoon (on more than 1 day) trying to get this. I, ended up calling and they seemed very skilled at helping people run the gauntlet over the phone. Government at (not) work?

    1. yonatan solberg says:

      My frustrating experience led me to seek ‘company in misery’, which you have provided, and thanks.

      A 20-year resident and citizen of Israel, I ‘called’ home’ last week to innocently learn what might save me from poverty since arriving at 67.

      The multiple-choice questions were so far from specifically-irrelevant to any details of my life; ex: a list of streets I’ve perhaps lived on? Never even heard of any of them, so ‘None of the above’. Same story for the other two questions. Paranoid, I suspected that they had an entirely different guy in their files.

      Locked out, of course. Twice. One detail, the ‘prepare yourself’ list includes email address, yet there is no field for it in the form, at least as far as I saw. Whas up with dat?

      Once again, thanks for documenting that I’m not a lone gun-man in this episode.

      J. Solberg, Israel

  12. Jim Madura says:

    Same issue, not able to register/access my own account information on ssa.gov. The kicker is, before they made the “enhancements” to the website, I was able to access it.

    1. Jill Ann Adams says:

      I tried to access my account too. I forgot my password, but when it goes to the window to get your password that you forgot it doesn’t like my answers. I used things that I could remember and it locked me out. I tried again to sign in after that and it locked me out again in less than 3 times trying. I need to check my account. I need to see if I need to renew my Extra Help. This is frustrating and pissing me off.

  13. Bob Schwartz says:

    Glad to see this is not unique. My answer to most of the questions was NO — addresses at places I had never lived, phone numbers I never had. I also said no to a vague question about “bank” accounts that MIGHT have included a credit card that I did have — was that incorrect, and lock me out of everything? OR has my account been hacked, and someone else receiving payments. After the 50 minute wait for telephone, only help was to let me try again in less than 24 hours — with same result! I can’t believe there aren’t more widespread complaints. Fortunately we have a meeting scheduled in a couple of weeks — but for now must live with possibility that somebody else is sitting there collecting our money ….. And yes, I am computer literate.

  14. deja says:

    The site asked me four questions, none of which applied to me hence I answered none of the above, and was promptly locked out. None of the accounts they asked about are on my credit reports and I monitor all three bureaus on a regular basis.

  15. Jonathan Hopper says:

    I had a similar problem with the mySocialSecurity account creation. All it asked for was my name, my D.O.B., my phone number, my address, and my SS number. All things that I know and can certainly check with accuracy. I haven’t moved recently or changed phone numbers, so that shouldn’t be a problem, I know my own name and birthday, and I triple checked my SS#. I know everything was correct, and yet time after time the website told me to correct my information. Very aggravated, and the website simply told me to go to my local SS office (which is an hour away) and sign up for an account there. Much inconvenient, much annoyed.

  16. Ginger Rosser says:

    So glad I found this website. I was sure someone had gotten hold of my ss number. No it’s not me, it’s them! I just wanted my benefits statement. Sheez.

  17. Janne says:

    Both my husband and I tried to set up an account so that we could access our information. I have been on other Government sites without this much trouble. This is frustrating. I know we are not the only ones with the same problems. I looked at other complaints dating back to 2014 and the problem has not been resolved. It seems when they want your money they waste no time in accessing your information and demand that you pay up but if the tables are turned then it takes them until Heck Freezes over before you get any help.

  18. Not-so-Lucky Penny says:

    I am one of the LUCKY account holders! My problem is now that I am an account holder they require that you change your password often, (I think every 6 months). I knew what my password was because I had it stored. It claims wrong password! I tried it 3 times and guess what?…..LOCKED OUT! Come on….REALLY???

  19. Dan H says:

    I think there’s something wrong with their system. Like many others I keep getting locked out.

    I want to make an account to use their on-line tools to start planning (I’m 60 now).

    At first I thought my problem might be the way they were getting the info and asking the questions such as “How much is your monthly mortgage payment?” Does this include taxes and insurance which are rolled into my payment or just the mortgage? Also since I’m paying an automated extra each month, do I include that? Depending on what they’re using, I could answer A, B or C on that question alone. I also get the credit card question where the correct answer is None of the Above. Is that what’s tripping me up?

    Since they told me that the questions are from the credit bureaus, I decided to open a Trans Union account and, lo and behold, there they were, the same questions. I answered them the same way as on the SS site and—I got in and created an account just fine—with the same answers.

    I tried another time to sign up and the answer to every question was “None of the Above” since they were questions about addresses, businesses and banks not even in this area of the country. Of course, I’m still locked out 🙁

  20. Michelle says:

    I am so glad to have found this website! No offense to everyone, but I am glad it wasn’t just me having problems with logging in.

  21. Jill says:

    I just tried two days in a row. No success. My co-worker tried. She had all questions that were ‘none of the above.’ It locked her out.
    So far, no one has blamed the Russians, but I’m pretty sure they are the culprits.

  22. gregf says:

    “I failed not because the website was poorly designed or hard to use.” – I totally disagree with this statement. The ID verification is also part of the design and is VERY POOR. Grade F.

    1. James Heaton says:

      Greg that’s an excellent point. Thank you! Why look at this essential functional element as something separate from the design?

  23. Garrett says:

    First of all, I would like to say that my wife and I are in our mid-20s, which is relevant because all the information requested to verify our identities is less than 10 years old. Additionally, all of that information seemed to be pulled from our credit reports, which seems pretty logical to me. Nevertheless, we have been unsuccessful, and are unsure as to why. Her questions related to the following:

    -current auto loan servicer
    -current auto loan total monthly amount
    -previous street of residence
    -a loan that was closed on a specified date
    -a credit card that was opened on a specified date

    The first time she entered her information, she did so strictly off memory except for the auto loan amount because it is an automatic payment that has yet to be due. All other questions were fairly obvious except the loan question. She didn’t recognize any lenders on the last so marked “none of the above” … no dice.

    The solution seemed obvious: diligently consult her credit report to ensure we are not missing anything. We did so. The result was somewhat puzzling because it turns out that all questions had been answered correctly, unless perhaps we had selected something wrong on accident.

    So we waited the 24 hours and tried again. Same questions except the credit card question this time referred to a different card. Easy enough right? We made damn sure that every question on there matched the credit report exactly. The only one we were concerned about was the loan question again … none of the servicers listed seemed to match any of the closed accounts on her report. So we start thinking, okay, maybe one of these servicers is actually being listed by their DBA/fictitious name and that’s why we’re missing it. So we do some research and don’t really come up with anything.

    (In retrospect, this name research seems unnecessary because once I decided to try my own hand at creating my account, it appears that the loan servicers listed in the questions on the SSA website are verbatim as they appear on a credit report i.e. DEPT OF EDUCATION/NELN is listed just like that.)

    At any rate, after all this trepidation we submit the information and of course she is now locked out of her account until she can call them. You may be asking yourself, “why on Earth do y’all care so much about accessing this site?”, which is a fair question. Essentially, my wife and I obtained a joint credit card recently for the purpose of conveniently splitting all of our bills. We linked all of our bills to that account. For some unknown reason, the account has been frozen and in order to reactivate, one of the criteria is for my wife to furnish her SS card. However, she does not have it, and she spends every waking hour engaged in her business, which is in its incipiency. Needless to say, it is difficult to swallow the idea of going to the Social Security office.

    Moving on, now I am definitely curious about this process because of the whole loan question that we were unsure about until I also failed. As before, we pulled my credit report, matched the questions and answers exactly, which in my case were completely unambiguous. Every question had the right answer selection, which we triple checked for accuracy before submitting.

    Similarly, my questions related to the following:

    -current auto loan servicer
    -current auto loan total monthly amount
    -previous street of residence
    -a loan that was opened on a specified date
    -a credit card that was opened on a specified date

    And of course I was also rejected. So naturally I had to figure out why a couple of college-educated millennials exercising a combined and very concerted effort could not seem to verify our own identities despite the fact that we presumably had the answer sheet while taking the test! I would still like for that question to be answered.

    Admittedly, I have found solace by the reviews here. Yet it is disconcerting and even discouraging to hear about the experience that ensues upon reaching out directly to the humans that are trained to assist with this matter. Any additional insight would be most helpful.

    P.S. I do not understand the comment by B. Chester from 2014. There does not appear to be any roulette of question from which I can casually choose. Please let me know if anyone else has experienced this.

    And God bless America!

    1. James Heaton says:

      Garrett, thank you for documenting this in such scrupulous detail! Thanks to all who have shared your stories here. It may be time to seek an answer to why this is so hard to fix. Is there some unseen force that prohibits attention to basic usability? I’ll start by asking my congressperson.

  24. Susan says:

    Now I know I’m not alone. However, I would rather be alone and get the social security I waited seventy years to claim. I am disgusted.

  25. Cathy says:

    I also have had three unsuccessful attempts at creating an account, Either the questions don’t pertain to me at this time, or there are street names and phone numbers I’ve never heard of. I will try again in 24 hours with renewed hope, but think I am probably fighting an already lost cause.

  26. Dylan says:

    I’ve been trying to create an account for my disabled brother to get a Benefit Verification Letter. Today I attempted to create an account and all these wrong questions appeared for me to answer about mortgage loans, monthly payment amounts, credit card lenders, etc. The problem with this is that he has no credit history whatsoever so this has stumped me. Possibly his social security number is being used under a stolen identity. I call S.S. and the rude lady on the phone said to get a credit report from 1 of the 3 leading credit report sites to double-check the info. I attempted to create an account with one of those and I hit the same roadblock. This time it asked multiple choice questions on a car loan, pet insurance, the pets name, and a bunch of crap. It’s very worrying actually.

  27. Elyse says:

    My sister and I have been trying for a few weeks to get replacement social security cards. Go online, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. We haven’t been able to create accounts, after many tries. My sister actually got to the page with all the questions about credit card, loan, mortgage, etc. but then they locked her out, too.

    I did call The Office and was able to give them all the info they needed to prove I was me—things that aren’t questions when you’re trying to set up the account, so far. They unlocked me 3 times and also couldn’t understand why I was locked out. But they won’t let me create an account—all I filled in is my name, address, phone number, and soc. sec. number—nothing I could possibly make a mistake on. My sister’s attempts were the same … minus that one question page—but after that, she was also locked out.

    We KNOW there must be something wrong with this site, because I’ve read so many complaints about it—but how are others able to create accounts with no problems?? It seems there are more people that can’t create them, or access their own info, than those that can. I gave up and sent them an application for another card. We also can’t get to the local soc. sec. office. I don’t remember having this kind of trouble the first time I applied for a replacement card—got it a short time later, too. They must be backed up by now mailing them out, with all the requests from people having trouble using the site.

    It shouldn’t be so hard to use the site, especially just to get a printout or a new card. Really frustrating. Why can’t they admit something is wrong with their website?

  28. Linda says:

    I created an account a long time ago and last week filed for Medicare. For the past 3-4 days, I have been unable to even log in to my account to see if it has been processed. I was given a re-entry account number but guess what … can’t log in to my account. Said page not found. Site checking the OP address says the server is up and running so it must be my laptop … What? Guess I am not alone in this!!!

  29. Brian says:

    I created accounts for my wife and myself right after getting the notification that printed annual summaries would no longer be sent. I carefully made note of the user ID and passwords that I created for each of us. The first time I tried to access my wife’s I got a “The information could not be verified” message. I checked, and the information was correct. Later, I tried it and it worked. Mine always worked, until today. So even if you end up guessing the correct answers to those long ago forgotten credit cards, loans and addresses – don’t think that your travails are over. The government gremlins lie in wait still.

  30. Rosalind says:

    I’m glad I found this site. Misery loves company. Twice I have tried to create an account and each time have had to answer “None of the above” to every question. My credit history is very thin, so it isn’t a matter of remembering details incorrectly. I’ve never had a mortgage or a mortgage payment, and only one car loan, decades ago. I called the 800 number and was told the questions come from the credit agencies. So I was sure someone was taking out car loans on my SSN. I was able to check Experian and TransUnion, and those were fine. Equifax, I ran into the same problem with Equifax that I had on the Social Security site—verification questions that had no relationship to my life.

    Still, I think if something was really wrong with my credit situation, that would be reflected in the other agencies.

  31. jim attridge says:

    Totally agree with all comments. I was blocked twice. The questions are ridiculous and require that you remember financial details of loans and mortgages from many years ago. I’m going to request to go back to hard copy mailings. The website is not worth the aggravation.

    1. Greg says:

      I just tried creating an account and I keep getting the message: “We have suspended electronic access to your personal information. We tried multiple times to match the information you provided with our records, but were unable to do so.”

      Apparently Social Security has some wrong information in their system because I’ve been at the same address for 4 years now. I remember trying to create an account 2 years ago and STILL have not been able to.

  32. Ed says:

    What, you were able to actually talk to someone at their 800 number? I tried several times to log in to my account this morning, only to have it time out at every attempt. I’m still unable to log in an hour and a half later. So I tried their 800 number. After several attempts the bot recognized my SS number. Then it informed me of some privacy issues. Then it told me I would be offered a survey after I had been “helped” by a human. Then I was put on hold for ten minutes, the same distorted muzak looping endlessly. Then a click, a phone-ringing tone, more muzak, then the survey! No human! Tried again, a 15-minute wait, gave up. Still unable to log in to my online account. All I want is a copy of my earnings/benefits statement. That’s it!

    Social Security is a bureaucratic nightmare, run by lifers and time-servers who couldn’t care less about their fellow citizens, as their “technology” proves. And it will only get worse.

  33. V. says:

    I’ve tried making an account several times over the past year and get locked out every single time with info that’s 100%. Every time until today, I didn’t even know there were security questions because it locked me out immediately after submitting the page with my name and general info on it. I’d have gone to the local office before now if it weren’t so terrible, and it’s too painful for me to sit for 7 hours waiting for them to call me, so I’ve put it off.

    Today, I tried again because there’s a huge discrepancy in the amount of benefit $ they’re supposed to send me and what they sent me today, and because there weren’t any letters from them in the mailbox.
    Turns out there are security questions, and now I’ve joined the club where none of the possible options to their questions were applicable to me in any way. It scared me because it has someone else’s personal info on it, even a list of middle names to choose from which are all wrong and multiple credit card questions and even a car loan question. I don’t have a car, or any credit cards. All I have is my bank savings account. So I printed the page, just in case, and then called social security and waited 45 minutes and they finally picked up. (Usually, it’s over an hour—the past few times I’ve called, I’ve been on hold for up to two hours and then get hung up on. Literally hung up on.)

    The person at the other end of the phone was really nice and helpful; they even went so far as “unlocking my account/info” and staying on the phone with me while I tried to create an account. It didn’t work. Twice. He said to go into the local office and see what I can do.

    I tried using the free credit report sites, because at that point I was more than convinced that someone is using my identity, and none of the credit reports worked. They “couldn’t get enough information” or essentially gave me the same message as social security did and said I was locked out of my information.

    I’m glad to hear that some people who have these problems have had success in the credit reports, but I’m going out of my mind with anxiety over this. I don’t see why the issue with the free, government-approved credit report sites would also be reflected in my trying to make an account. I also don’t understand why the person working at social security had to go in and “unlock” my info for me and then still have it not work. I’m still pretty convinced someone’s using my SSN after all this.

    I’m not sure what the local office will be able to tell me, if anything, and I have to wait over the weekend full of anxiety. But maybe I’ll come back and update after going, just in case someone reads this in the future and has the same problem.

    1. emil says:

      Same situation as you—what did they do at your local office? I tried calling and they’re basically useless on the phone. I asked the guy to help me create an account and he said to go to my local SS and asked me if there’s anything else he can help me with (funny, he didn’t help me on nothing xD).

  34. Lori Wise-Esterhay says:

    I’ve been locked out too. Numerous times. I may have messed up my application. I wanted to start over. I know my dad’s middle name, the hospital I was born in and my first car model. It is HIGHLY annoying not to be able to get back in.

  35. Deb Kelly says:

    Glad I’m not the only one…..I will try again and maybe one more time after that, then I will be done with the online portal and will have to call SS if I need them. I don’t remember what credit card I had 30 years ago or the phone number I had other than the one I have now. That is just information that I didn’t think I would ever need again so erased it from my memory :-/

    Unfortunately SS will not do anything about this so good luck everyone 🙂

  36. Joe Turner says:

    I’ve had an account set up for myself and my wife for many years. Everything has been great until today when I went to log on and check my account. There is a new layer of security now that requires an e-mail or text message code to be entered. Hey that’s fine no problem. The message says it may take up to 2 minutes to receive the text. It also says you must enter the code within 10 minutes. It takes 22 minutes for me to get the code so I can’t get into my own account now after properly entering my username and password. Sad sad sad.

  37. James Heaton says:

    I tried again today, and was locked out again. In the three years since I authored this article, after having what amounts to the same frustrating experience over and over again, I can see that the managers of this website have gone through the time and expense of improving the website’s appearance significantly. But they have failed to address the fundamental problems of utility that is at the heart of my article and is reflected by all the commenters who have taken the time to tell their stories of frustration here. Big buttons and attractive graphics are not the solution to a flawed user-level interface. The brand consequence in my experience today was worse than the first time because it is so clear that other work has been done. So this is not neglect but obstinance. I can only ask again: Why?

    There are better ways to achieve a sufficient level of security.

    Most of the true and correct answers for me were “None of the above,” but this question stuck out in particular: “On which of the following streets have you NEVER lived?” (emphasis mine) with a list of streets that I’ve NEVER lived on, and the option of “None of the above.” What’s the correct answer?

    I think what the question was getting at was which of these addresses has absolutely no association with any aspect of your life and has never served as a reportable address for anything including office locations you have had in the past, but it did not ask that. It asked on which of these have I never lived and as a statement of fact I have never lived on any of those streets. Am I being locked out because I feel compelled to answer honestly instead of sleuthing some semi-transparent intent within this inherently unanswerable question?

    I still do not have access to my Social Security information and I sit here locked out and frustrated for absolutely no good reason that I can see.

    1. Nolan Presnell says:

      Just took a retirement class that instructed us to sign up to My Social Security. The instructor told us about the questions and had a tip. Some questions are deliberate trick questions to prevent identity theft. So some answers are “none of the above”. I still believe it is overkill for the website. The Chinese already have all my data.

    2. Connie Fry says:

      My granddaughter, age 21, tried to set up an account to order a replacement SS card. She has one credit card and has never had a mortgage or car loan. The security questions included mortgages, mortgage amounts, car loan and amounts, credit cards other than the one she has, and addresses that she didn’t recognize. Needless to say, she got locked out, twice. So, I thought I would try to open an account for myself. At age 63, I have several paid-off mortgages (some of which had been sold to other lenders), numerous car loans, credit cards, etc., plus numerous past addresses. Voila! I got in on the first try! (I did answer ‘none of the above’ on one question regarding a retail credit card.)

  38. Shannon says:

    Finding this article as well as the numerous comment entries has actually provided a sense of relief for me. Thank you.

    I also attempted to open an online account for SS. And I also ran into the IDENTICAL PROBLEM everyone else here has run into. None of those questions applied to me, not even a listing of a street I lived on. So obviously I entered that it does not apply to me. I was immediately locked out. SCARED ME SOMETHING AWFUL!

    I immediately contacted by phone and gave all my information so they could verify it was me. I explained what had happened and actually shared my fear that possibly my identity was stolen, and loans taken out using my name, and false addresses being used for my name. The person I spoke to said, “Ma’am, you have been locked out because you answered all your security questions incorrectly.” But I tried to explain that I did not answer them incorrectly. If they did not apply to me, they did not apply … period. The person unlocked the site for me to attempt a second time … which I did not do. I asked for a number to check to see if possibly I’m a victim of identity theft—it turns out that number is for Experian?

    I’m still highly upset because I did not need this, on top of everything else. I’m still rather a bit scared as well … not knowing what is going on. But seeing this article, with everyone else having the same exact problem, gave a little bit of comfort. Thank you.

  39. D. K. says:

    It’s been YEARS since this article and the website still doesn’t work.

    It’s infuriating.

    I just went to the social security office and there were 50 people waiting to be served by the measly 5-6 workers there, finishing about 1 case every 30 minutes at best. Do the math.

    So I left, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the social security website would finally work. It’s been 3 years since I last tried (I was denied access then because I, too, am not “me” enough). Guess what? SAME PROBLEM.

    Government is a joke.

  40. Maureen says:

    I am pretty tech-savvy but I tried to log on to the social security website to try to get a statement for my financial planner and got locked out. I couldn’t remember the EXACT answers to the questions—was my first car a Buick or did I enter Buick Century? So they said they would mail me a temporary password within 2 weeks. It didn’t arrive. I called the SSA and spoke with a lovely woman who was absolutely no help at all. The best that she could do was tell me to request a temporary password by mail again, which I have done. I also requested a written statement, which can take 4 to 6 weeks. My next step is to contact my congressman. I figure since this Congress has done absolutely nothing since January, he owes me one.

  41. Ricardo Guzman says:

    I also tried to create an online account and was blocked after I was unable to answer their questions. Not that I did not know them; I just could not remember telephone numbers, mortgage company names, and other credit questions from 30 years ago. I called to get my account unlocked but was told I had to go in person. I have tried going in person several times only to walk away because the wait is several hours.

  42. T Lanford says:

    Okay, I feel better after reading these comments! I, too, was apparently permanently blocked because I didn’t answer one of the questions “correctly.” I’ll have to find a day to go sit at the SS office to see about getting a benefit statement. It would be nice if we had a choice of how to access our information.

    Of course, I’m environmentally aware & don’t want to waste mountains of paper. But I have a master’s degree in information management & can’t navigate the site correctly. Only providing electronic access (& I use the term loosely here) automatically ignores the surprisingly large percentage of our population that doesn’t have access to the internet and/or has no computer skills. The digital divide grows. It’s very frustrating.

  43. Old Man Joe says:

    I am in the middle of filing for SSDI and tried to create an online account in order to check the status of my claim.
    I was not able to create the ‘My Social Security’ account and was told to contact the administration by phone.
    Same thing over the phone.
    No human was made available and the automated system said it could not do anything for me.
    Come to find out, through Google, that you can not create an account if you have locked or ‘frozen’ your credit.
    With the recent Equifax breach, both my spouse and I froze our credit.
    Looks like a multi-hour visit to the SSA local office is in my near future as I refuse to lift the credit freeze.

  44. Tired Mom says:

    We have been dealing with this exact thing for my son who is on SSI and is trying to get a job. After many attempts (and lockouts) on the website and many hours at the local Social Security Office, we are no closer. They just say, “You aren’t answering the questions right.” He has no credit so even the credit reporting agencies can’t help us. We’ve only had three addresses in thirty-one years. We’ve provided his actual Social Security card, his birth certificate as well as both mine and my husband’s, his picture ID and a bank statement. Would a DNA sample suffice?

  45. P Sherman says:

    I have been unable to set up my account and have been locked out several times, once with my credit report sitting in front of me. One problem is that there are some answers that are partially correct but not completely correct (names of institutions that are close but not completely correct). They also use acronyms. My mortgage recently adjusted but it was not clear which amount they were asking about. So you end up guessing. When I called I was told it was only an hour wait. I am quite frustrated with the process. The intent is good but the execution, poor. Someone should print these comments and send them to the head of SSA …

  46. L. Cox says:

    I could not get in either. I finally called and was on hold for over an hour to ask how they could help. They made an appointment for me and I went in. The person who helped me get set up was able to do it in 5 minutes. I still have no idea why I couldn’t do it myself but was very grateful for the help!

    1. Janet says:

      Good to know I can call in to make an appointment. I’ll try that next. Thank you and to all the rest of you for sharing our pain on this. I’m also feeling better that it is not just me.

  47. Greg says:

    I’ve logged on yearly for many years. Today I got an email reminder to check my account. I tried to log on and after entering my correct username and password, I was told, “We tried three times to match the information you provided with our records …” I tried once, not three times. I know my username and password were correct since I cut and paste them from a file and they worked correctly last time.

    I write software, often with web interfaces for a living. For very secure sites, when someone fails three times, I lock them out for 3 to 15 minutes depending on the sensitivity of the data. That’s very strong security and how brute force attacks are stopped. Locking them out for 24 hours after one attempt is ridiculous!

  48. Elizabeth M Sloane says:

    All I want to find out is why my SS benefits are to be the same in 2018 as they are in 2017 even though there is supposed to be a 2% Cola increase. I don’t seem to remember the answers to the questions: I do know my dad’s middle name though perhaps I misspelled the name of the street I lived on in the third grade or perhaps I don’t remember which college major I put in as there are 3 (English, Music and French). In any case, I am locked out.

  49. Michael Holderreed says:

    So, I’m locked out … for 24 hours. What is the reasoning behind the 24-hour lockout? Can the bad guy not just try again in 24 hours? But, there is no bad guy, just me, and I need a new card. Why make me wait 24 hours? I can give it a go right now if you’d let me. I’m sure I can guess the entirely forgettable details of life. But, at this rate … this could take days. I can’t imagine how much I’ll resent the system on day 3, attempt 3.

  50. den says:

    I have tried to get into my disabled mother’s account with her credentials and got an account suspended notice. So I tried after 24 hours and there it goes again—wait another twenty four hours. Man, what gives.

  51. Beverly says:

    Now it’s worse: I was just told on the phone that after 3 tries you can’t try anymore and you have no choice but to go physically to an office, prove who you are, and get a paper code to bypass the system. I called my senator to tell her: THIS IS BROKEN!

  52. Manloon says:

    I tried the website a few times 3 or 4 years ago, and I saw questions that many people mentioned here. Even though I answered all correctly (trust me, I keep log of EVERYTHING in my life), it locked me out.

    Fast forward to early 2018, I just tried again, but this time it asked me about my W-2 Box 5 and Fed ID Number which I copied from the actual W-2 page right in front me. No luck. I tried the second question which is to provide the last 8 digits of one of my credit cards (I tried two different ones I’ve had since the day I got my first one). Boom! Failed. I was locked out again.

    Someone needs to have his/her pension sacked for creating the most useless government website ever.

  53. Crystel Tse says:

    I have realized that these questions are totally bogus. It asks everyone relatively the same questions. I have never had a driver’s license so I don’t have a car loan and I have never had a home loan so that didn’t apply. It locked me out. I phoned and the agent could not help me. She said that those questions are sent from the credit reporting agency Equifax and that they have no control over the questions they ask. I told her that it is impossible because I just checked my credit accounts. Like Equifax, Experian and those things are not even listed on my account. She seemed all ready with a response to my questions and a little defensive. She proceeded to tell me that I would have to go into my local office to verify my identity, then try to log in online after my visit and obtain the information I need that way. What a crazy way of doing business. I cant believe that they let the credit bureaus handle access rights to information of people’s work history and benefit information.

  54. GN says:

    For me, it just spins and spins. It’s a big JOKE. Our government at its finest. It resets saying “connection interrupted” or goes nowhere. It’s a mess, just like our entire political system.

  55. Laszlo J. says:

    The bottom line is that the more computer involvement there is, the more annoying it gets. Hardly can wait to get retired and move away from this so-called “technologically advanced” world. This is getting insane and more insane day by day.

  56. Priscilla says:

    I tried just half an hour ago to create an account for the second time in like three years and was of course, locked out again.

    There is a new, optional feature where they ask you for information off of a W-2 or a credit card, to give extra verification. Then you get the questions that don’t apply to you anyway. I have never driven anything but old cars that were passed down to me by a relative, so I have never had an auto loan in my name. Ever.

    I have never had a mortgage and I only have two credit cards. Have had them for years and neither of them were listed in the questions. Checked my credit report and saw just those two credit cards and good credit score with the suggestion that I apply for either another credit card or a loan. I would think that if someone had stolen my identity, that would have revealed itself long ago. That and the information provided off of a W-2 or a credit card should be proof enough without the questions. And I think it’s shady that anyone would be locked out AFTER providing additional, sensitive information such as that.

    Honestly, I am now beginning to think that the point of this site is to make people actually go to a SS office! I know it sounds crazy because there would be no benefit in that for the already overworked workers (they have to be sick of answering questions about the website they cannot answer), but that’s the only thing that makes sense. Either people cannot get in to create an account, or they got lucky and created one once, then could not get back in again.

    This is shameful, actually. In today’s world, a website as important as that should be easily accessible.

  57. Judy says:

    I’m locked out. My husband is locked out. If the dog had a social security number he would probably have better luck. All we want to do is change our mailing address. How difficult can that be? So frustrating!

  58. RH says:

    Had exactly the same experience – locked out. Provided EXACT information – checked it multiple times. Then presented with confirmation questions that had nothing at all to do with any aspect of my history. Very strange. Off to the local office I go…

  59. Spencer Davis says:

    Forgot my password to my social security account. Forgot the answers to the barrage of security questions I have to get right, so I have to be mailed a reset pin. It takes almost 10 days to get this reset pin and it doesn’t specify exactly how to use it so I just assume it’s a temporary password. Put it in twice and get locked out of my account for 24 hours for putting in the incorrect password. I really don’t want to order another temporary pin, guess I have to call them.

  60. Donna W says:

    Well, yes, I’ve been locked out three times. Twice I have never gotten as far as the security questions.

    Finding this blog and all the posts has been reassuring to me! I was beginning to think that I really don’t know what my name is.

  61. CF says:

    I am so frustrated but somewhat relieved to know I am not alone. I also have been locked out after two attempts to set up an account.

    Those security questions are terrible! Who can remember that stuff and since the Equifax Breach, we have our credit frozen! I would have to pay a fee to unfreeze them and am still not sure it would help to have the reports.

    I did sign up for Medicare online, but without an account set up with Social Security, I am unable to check the status or anything else!

    I have made an appointment at the Social Security office, but it’s 3 months away. I guess it will all work out somehow, someday, but it really should not be this difficult.

  62. IG says:

    On hold right now … I did not attempt to log in 3x’s, I tried twice. Yes, it is true, I may not remember the password and thus provided the ONLY answers I can recall!

    LOL, Social Security has to take into account that when people finally get around to calling them, well … they are not precisely “spring chickens” anymore!

    WOW! The waiting time now is AN HOUR!
    LOL, UNBELIEVABLE!!!

  63. Sierra says:

    To put this whole ordeal into perspective, I’m 19, trying to log in to my SSN to get employment dates from the only two jobs I’ve worked in my life. Security questions were asking me about mortgage loans taken out this time last year and loans for a car in 2012 — I was 13 in 2012 and absolutely could not have taken out a loan for a car as I had no credit score and I COULDN’T EVEN DRIVE YET. Also, they asked me what first name I have used previously with options like Zambia — WHAT? I managed to get a credit report from TransUnion that shows nothing unusual, the only credit card being the one my brother got for me. Experian and Equifax both ask me similar questions to the SS ones.

  64. Karen F says:

    Trying to set up an account to get a social security report is a nightmare! I had the answers to all the security questions and it still booted me off. One of the questions was ‘Select a phone number that you have now or had previously’ … I only saw one recognizable phone number and it was a phone number my spouse had years ago, so I selected none of the above. Didn’t even apply to me! This is our government alright … jacked up and a worthless waste of time. Booted out for 24 hours, can’t wait to see what happens when I try this again in 23 hours. Grrrrrrrr.

  65. Darcy M says:

    Thanks so much for this commentary – yes, this site is just insanely difficult to use. It’s a site that will largely be used by the elderly, for starters, but beyond that, I’m sure there’s plenty of older people (and other users) with good web skills, who keep track of their logins – like me – who find it absolutely impossible to log in. My user ID has changed, to all caps, I figured that out with one login fail, then entered my password on the next shot, and got locked out again, then went back a week or so later for another try, and this time thought I’d get a password reset. Good luck to me. I know the answers to my security questions, but who knows, maybe I didn’t capitalize something, or whatever, because it locked me out again, for the 4th or 5th time. I am now forced to get on the effing phone, because this stupidly useless site is impossible to log in to. This absolutely should not be so difficult. If they’re turning the site into Fort Knox, then they need a chat feature to walk people through this.

  66. eb says:

    I reset my password yesterday (required after 6 months) and was able to log in after reset. I tried to log in again today, and it locked me out stating I had attempted to log in 3x. Now states I can try again in 24 hrs. Very buggy site.

  67. TS says:

    Add one more to the list.

    My son, 19, tried to register and all the security questions were easy … “none of the above” … since he never had a mortgage loan, credit card, auto loan, etc. Filled it in, clicked next and voila! Locked out for 24 hrs. I heard a “what the f***” comment and proceeded to tell him to get used to it because you will encounter many, many situations in life with government agencies, insurance companies, etc. that will bring to mind the acronyms … SNAFU and FUBAR.

  68. EB says:

    I reset my password yesterday (required after 6 months) and was able to log in after reset. I tried to log in again today, and it locked me out stating I had attempted to log in 3x. Now states I can try again in 24 hrs. Very buggy site.

    I was able to successfully log in after 24 hrs. Browser stored previous password, and that resulted in the lockout after 3x.

  69. EJ says:

    I tried to sign up and it locked me out and instructed me to call Social Security. I called and the agent said because I have a lock on my credit reports, I had to go to a local office to get a personal identification number that I could use to activate an account. After waiting at my local office for over 3 hours, I had to leave. Will attempt again another day.

  70. Jeri L. Kelley says:

    I was shocked to find out how many people are totally frustrated with this SS website, the sign-up, the block out AFTER answering questions correctly. I gave up and just tried again only to be blocked. They were supposed to send me a new password in the mail … and never did. So, I have no idea where things stand and when you call their 800 number, you have some ridiculous 3-hour wait to speak to someone. Very troubling, time consuming and downright frustrating after you spend a lifetime waiting to retire and receive the benefits. I also received a letter in the mail giving me a confirmation number to check claim status … but I can’t get in because of all of the aforementioned!

  71. deborah lanius says:

    I have tried to log in to the SSA account for the last 2 weeks without any luck. I know the answers to all 3 security questions and I know my answers are right but I keep getting blocked. I was trying to sign up for Medicare and called SSA (on hold over an hour). The lady told me I could sign up under another web site area in SSA and I did (without having to log in to my SSA account). But I still can’t log in to the SSA account. There is an option to receive a paper statement of SSA benefits, which I have done, but I would still like to be able to log in to the site (to check the status of my Medicare application for one thing). I also was told I would get a new password in the mail, but it hasn’t come yet. So I will have to go physically to a local SSA office, which I am, of course, dreading. But that’s the way it is. I feel there must be something wrong with the website with so many people having problems. Yes, a very frustrating and troubling experience for all. This really needs to be looked into by someone, who??? Don’t know.

  72. J. Smith says:

    Last year, I tried to set up an account with Social Security online. You guessed it, I was locked out because of the security questions. Of course, they don’t tell you which ones you got wrong, so you wonder about all of them. Today I signed up for Medicare and went to try again to set up a Social Security account. Yep, locked out yet again for not knowing what credit card I might have gotten “around 1997.” Twenty-one years ago??? There was a question about what street I may have lived on. Because I do have a good memory with things like that, I recognized the obscure street that was our mailing address when we were in an apartment for just a few weeks when moving. I won’t go through the other ridiculous questions, but I really want access to my own information! Calling SS now.

  73. Freva Dossman says:

    When I tried to create an account, it would not let me. It did not even ask any security questions, just said I can’t do it.

  74. Ray says:

    There is a potential trick question they ask about: Which of the following streets have you NEVER lived on? I believe most people are tricked into answering “none of the above.” If you really think about the question, you probably should select any one of the streets you have NEVER lived on and not none of the above. If anyone wants to try answering that question this way and you’re not locked out, please post your results.

  75. Jeffrey Jones says:

    I’ve been having trouble with my online account for years, almost from the beginning. I’m posting here because there is no way to register a complaint on the SSA website besides, I’m not me! My first pet’s name and street name have changed!

  76. Janice says:

    I have also been locked out. I have lived and worked in 5 states in the past 20 years, and they clearly shuffled some phone area code and exchanges, but I simply cannot recall the exact phone number I may have had at one of those times.

    Another similarity I find between Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the SSA security questions, is that the multiple choice options make me question my answer. That other choice looks like it could be right so maybe I am not remembering the name of that finance company from years ago?

  77. rhoby says:

    I managed to get back into my account today, but find that it requires a code being sent to my email account EVERY TIME?! …not just to reset my password but simply to login. ~sigh~ My issue may be how rarely I use the website, expiring passwords are such a joy…

  78. Kathy Lundberg says:

    Same here for my husband and myself, both formerly in computer fields and with help from a professional in computer security—me.

    24 hour lock out after one wrong attempt.

    In the case of my husband, four “none of the above” answers to mortgage and auto loan questions that are verified not to be on our credit reports.

  79. James Heaton says:

    Kathy,

    Thank you for your comment, and also a congratulations of sorts: yours is the 100th corroborating comment on this post. There has apparently been no movement on this issue in the 5 years since I first wrote this in a bout of frustration. I’ve never actually gotten in, but it is some solace that other frustrated souls feel less alone and less that they are somehow at fault.

  80. Debra says:

    My experience was exactly the same as yours!! Got locked out once—they reset me for one more try while on the phone with them and I failed again. I asked, “How do people steal your identity when I can’t even access what is mine?” No brilliant answer to be had.

    Now I will have to spend a day of my hard-earned vacation to sit patiently at the SS office because they are only open from 9-4, Monday through Friday and I work from 8:30-5:00 everyday. This is more difficult than it needs to be. I can get a loan to buy a house without knowing what year I opened my JCPenney credit account.

    I am 63 and trying to get myself prepared to retire. This is the government, so what should I have expected … certainly not simplicity.

  81. Jim Johnson says:

    I have experienced an eerily similar scenario. I had (have?) an existing mysocialsecurity account, but forgot my password & was locked out – still am locked out. That was in Feb 2018. SS said they would mail instructions to me on 4 Feb, then again on 18 May, and once again on 12 Jul. So far, nothing has shown in my mailbox to regain access to my online account. And it is a disappointing hour plus wait to call SS (800-772-1213) and then be told they cannot help me thru tech support or any online access. Extremely frustrating!

  82. Phil Meyer says:

    The problems continue, even after a person finally gets all the answers right and opens an account.
    After an undetermined amount of time, the site seems to disable your password.
    No documentation could be found on this.

    So, each time someone wants to access their data, they have to request a lost password.
    If you attempt to log in with the saved password from your browser’s last access (even though it was updated at that time) it will fail, and you get locked out for 24 hours before you can ask for a new password.

    Frustrating!

  83. Nancy Diem says:

    I also cannot get into my account. But even worse, the 800 number always says it is closed! I am calling in their business hours, and this has not only happened these last few weeks, but last year when I needed to reach them.

    What is the trick?

  84. Phil says:

    FAIL. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.
    My wife and I both are unable to get back into the Social Security website! The site has an extremely major fault to it which makes me wonder why nothing has been done to make it accessible.

    And for those who claim the site has not been a problem for them, have you tried recently to access your info? There’s a good chance you can no longer get back in … like the rest of us who can’t. There’s a very good chance I am a person who has more web experience and accesses more sites than most people do AND I CAN NO LONGER ACCESS THIS TERRIBLE SITE!

    The Social Security website receives an F- as having the most flawed security of any website I’ve ever visited.

  85. Ann says:

    Oh my — when I tell people how I am locked out after each, umm fix. They look at me suspiciously, thank you. It feels really good to know it is not me.

    Blame the we don’t care, we don’t have to, CRAs. They allow just about anyone to access your files to provide corruptions of your legal name/addresses and a variety of unknown claims, at least unknown to me.

    Until they clean up their act, never. Much more than website access is a problem, look at congressional reports. More inaccuracies than should ever be allowed.

    Gonna go call SSA.