"We are committed to meeting the changing needs of the American people and the launch of our new mobile site helps reinforce our online presence and adaptability to advances in technology," says Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. "I encourage all smartphone users looking for Social Security information to take advantage of our new mobile site."
The mobile site allows you to create or sign into your Social Security account, where you can check your earnings record, review the taxes you've paid and get an estimate of what your future payments will be. Those who are already receiving benefits can sign up for direct deposit, get a benefit verification letter or update their personal information.
The website for smartphone users also includes information about how to get a replacement Social Security card, a search function where you can look up information about Social Security and a list of recent publications. There are links to Social Security's press releases, social media accounts, office closings and the most popular baby names.
When workers get information or sign up for Social Security online, it saves taxpayers money. "With significant budget cuts of nearly a billion dollars each year over the last few years, we must continue to leverage technology and find more innovative ways to meet the evolving needs of the American public without compromising service," Colvin says.
But some smartphone users may be apprehensive about entering their Social Security number to create an online account. A recent University of California--Berkeley study of 60 smartphone users found that only about a third (32 percent) were willing to enter their Social Security number on their mobile phone. Among the 41 people who said they would not type their Social Security number into their phone, 36 cited security reasons including not trusting smartphone technology or fearing that their Social Security number would be stored on their device and they could lose the phone. The study participants who were age 48 or older were the least likely to be willing to disclose their Social Security number on their smartphone, while people ages 28 to 37 were the most likely to share sensitive information via phone.
In contrast, all but four people in the study said they felt comfortable entering their Social Security number on a laptop computer. "Entering your Social Security number via your smartphone is probably as safe as entering it via your laptop. I think it's perfectly reasonable to use your smartphone to log into the Social Security's web site and check your online account," says David Wagner, a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley and coauthor of the study. "Just make sure you go to the real Social Security agency's site, e.g., by going there through a search engine. Don't follow some link that came by email, because that might be a scam."
The Social Security Administration says that its website receives more than 35 million page views each year via smartphone. Wagner says he feels comfortable logging in: "Personally, I don't send my Social Security number through email - and people should never divulge personal information at a link they got by email - but I'd be perfectly happy entering my Social Security number into the Social Security's website, mobile or not."