Friday, July 20, 2012

"Social Security Selling Dead Peoples' Identity for $10 a Pop"

Ernest Thode sent a link to this article on the Fox 8 website in Cleveland, Ohio (, which was apparently written by Blake Ellis on CNN Money:

The article claims that:

"For $10, identity thieves can access the full name, Social Security number and other personal information of a dead person through a list of millions of deceased Americans, known as the Death Master File:"


"Currently, the Social Security Administration provides the file to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which then distributes it to more than 450 entities including state and local governments, hospitals, universities, financial institutions, insurance companies, and genealogy services. However, anyone can access the information through the NTIS website. To obtain records for one person, it costs $10. For an annual subscription with unlimited access to all of the files of deceased individuals, the price tag is $995."


"And the identities of dead people aren’t just being stolen for tax-related fraud. A recent report from fraud prevention firm ID Analytics showed that identity thieves also steal the personal information to apply for credit cards, cell phones and anything else requiring a credit check. About 2.4 million deceased Americans each year get their identities stolen each year — amounting to a rate of more than 2,000 thefts per day."

Please read the whole article for context and statements by administrators, agitators and politicians.

Hmmm, my thoughts on this article are:

*  The Department of Commerce charges $10 for a DMF/SSDI entry when many of us can find it for free!  Ah,our government at work.  If they charged $100 for an entry, would it reduce the number of identity thieves using this method?

*  Does the DOC DMF entry provide more information than the genealogy sites?  I really doubt it. The index has full name, date of birth, date of death, Social Security Number, year and state of application, and last known residence. 

*  The stated purpose of the DMF/SSDI is to PREVENT identity theft, not to promote it.  The institutions that purchase it and use it are supposed to check the DMF whenever someone provides a SS number to determine if an identity theft is in progress.  This check is supposed to include any credit check!  Apparently, these institutions are aiding and abetting identity theft.

*  The article mentions "Freedom of Information lawsuits" which are for images of the SS-5 application made by an individual by postal mail. This costs $27 each and takes weeks to obtain.  My guess is that those are not the problem here...but that's probably too much detail for the reporter to process.

*  The ID Analytics firm can't do simple mathematics; 2.4 million divided by 365 days a year is 6,575 thefts per day, not 2,000. My guess is that the 2.4 million number is wrong... perhaps they confused the number of persons dying each year (2,438,077 in 2010 in the SSDI) with the number of actual identity theft claims.

*  Where are the Fact checkers for this article?  Did they just blindly believe what the administrators, agitators and politicians were saying?  

*  How hard can it be for any government agency, and especially the IRS, to do a cross-check on ANY SSN with the DMF. I'll bet that could be easily programmed so no human being has to do anything but enter the SSN into a computer...oh, I forgot, it's the government that we're dealing with here. 

Pardon my snark... 

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Copyright(c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Celia Lewis said...

Now Randy - you're allowed to be snarky because it IS ridiculous and illogical. Just remember not to ever bother with any so-called information coming out of a Fox so-called 'reporter'. See how easy that is? No energy at all to ignore garbage like this. Must be silly-season for news in the US!

Anonymous said...

This was written by a CNN Money reporter.

Randy Seaver said...

Celia, the Fox TV station (who knows if it was a reporter or not) picked it up and reprinted it, and probably did a news segment on, a report from a CNN Money reporter, as I included in my first paragraph.

The problem is that thousands of people saw this report on CNN, and perhaps fox 8in Cleveland, or read it on the websites, and received a set of ridiculous and illogical information.

I tend to ignore so-called"news" reports out of many so-called news organizations and commentators.

Above The Branches Genealogy LLC said...

Are you kidding me

J. Paul Hawthorne said...

Excellent analysis Randy.

Unknown said...

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. Why on earth would this information be publicly available, and at such little cost? Baffling.

Fred | No Identity Theft