“When designing software, developers try to take into account all of the possible scenarios," said Travis Smith, a security analyst with Tripwire. "However, humans are fallible," and that can trip up otherwise well-designed software.
In any case, it's an illustration of why it's important for consumers to use due diligence. They can do it with free credit reports or identity protection services such as LifeLock, which is the parent company of ID Analytics.
"You should be reviewing those reports to see if there's activity associated with your identity that you don't recognize," he said. "Either of these women could probably have seen the problem earlier if they had been doing that."
The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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