Michigan builds identity proofing pilot program

Michigan builds identity proofing pilot

States across the country struggle to cut waste and fraud within their social welfare programs.  Anti-fraud measures can be expensive and require considerable manpower to sift through individual claims and verify identities. 

But Michigan may have found a solution.  The state’s Department of Human Services announced it will be partnering with LexisNexis to create a pilot online identity authentication portal for MI Bridges, a system where citizens apply for public benefits. 

A key goal of the pilot program is to cut out waste and identity-based fraud while creating  “streamlined processes for benefit determination by confirming the identity of clients at the time they are applying for benefits,” the company said in its release.

The pilot identity authentication portal uses a questionnaire to verify users’ identity. The first step of the multi-factor authentication, requires applicants to provide head-of-household information.  Next, LexisNexis uses what it calls “knowledge-based authentication,” which generates a questionnaire based on personal details that only the applicant would know (like previous addresses).

Though the pilot program will only run until the end of fiscal year 2015, Human Services is hopeful it will become a permanent piece of successful fraud protection toolkit.  The agency has focused much of its attention on curbing fraud in the past.  In fact, over the last year, anti-fraud efforts by the Michigan Department of Human Services have saved taxpayers $126 million.

This recent announcement for identification authentication is not the first time MI Bridges has experimented with such measures.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology earlier awarded the state $1.3 million for an automated identification program that would replace costly human identification proofing.  Previously, anyone applying for public assistance had to apply in person.

Other states as well as federal agencies have looked into similar identity proofing measures.  Indiana, for example, contracted with LexisNexis to verify the identities of those applying for income tax refunds as identify theft affected 1.2 million taxpayers in 2012.

Michigan officials are hopeful the pilot program will not only cut down on fraud, but continue to ensure proper benefits are received.  “By working with LexisNexis to incorporate identity-proofing solutions into our systems, we will not only continue to fight fraud, we also make sure that benefits are going to those truly in need,” said Maura Corrigan, director of the Department of Human Services.  

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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