To better protect the Social Security numbers (SSNs) of deceased Americans from identity theft, the “Keeping IDs Safe Act” was recently introduced in the U.S. House by Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas), according to a press release on Johnson’s website. Also known as the “KIDS Act,” the legislature would make it harder for identity thieves to steal SSNs of deceased children and others by limiting access to the Death Master File publicly released by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
According to the press release, the SSA has been required to make the Death Master File – a file containing the personal information of Americans who have died – publically available since 1980. Johnson claims the Death Master File has become a resource for criminals seeking to commit identity theft on Americans – specifically the identities of deceased children – and has been used by identity thieves for at least a decade to access SSNs, file false Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax returns, and collect refunds.
“Worrying about a loved one’s Social Security number is the last thing a grieving family should have to do,” Johnson, the Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, stated in the press release, which also claimed that recent news reports revealed that the IRS flagged 350,000 potentially fraudulent 2010 tax returns requesting $1.25 billion in refunds using the information of deceased Americans. “This bill will stop the sale of the Death Master File immediately, better protecting Americans against fraud.”
Johnson states that while the SSA was originally required to publically put the personal information of deceased Americans into a Death Master File to help prevent payment and benefit fraud, now almost “anyone can get this information – including identity thieves.” Identity theft not only affects American businesses and taxpayers, but also grieving families who discover that identity thieves are exploiting the personal information of deceased loved ones for profit by applying for bogus tax refunds.
In addition, the press release states that approximately 14,000 individuals in the U.S. are incorrectly listed as deceased on the Death Master File each year, according to SSA. The unfortunate people who are mistakenly placed on this list can suffer severe financial hardship, such as the loss of benefits. The SSA Inspector General has recommended that the Death Master File should limit personal information to the absolute minimum and consider alternatives to displaying Social Security numbers.
The Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of all Amercians – including SSNs, names, birth dates, and financial data – is under constant threat from identity theft and fraud and should be protected. For more ESR News blogs about identity theft, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/identity-theft/. For more ESR News blogs about PII, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/personally-identifiable-information/. For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
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