January 30, 2013
Rep. Mike Capuano is filing legislation to prohibit the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals from being made publicly available through the Federal government’s Death Master File (DMF).
The Social Security Administration publishes the DMF, which includes the full name, social security number, date of birth, county, state, and zip code of deceased individuals. It is updated regularly. For fees as small as $10, anyone can access the database. In a 2011 report to Congress, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate pointed out that easy access to the DMF is a major contributor to recent increases in tax related identity theft.
“There is really no reason why the Social Security number of someone who has passed away should be available to anyone for a few dollars. The IRS has identified this as a problem and Congress should act quickly to close this loophole,” stated Rep. Mike Capuano.
The DMF is maintained and made publicly available for several reasons. Government agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies use it to determine if they should stop paying out benefits. Medical researchers use it to track deaths and the spread of disease. Life insurance companies use it to help detect fraud. Rep. Capuano’s legislation would not prohibit administrators from maintaining the DMF. It would simply make the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals unavailable to the public. The official online database can be found at ssdmf.com.
“This commonsense step would help reduce identity fraud, addressing a problem that the IRS has already identified and save money,” stated Rep. Capuano.
Contact: Alison M. Mills (Rep. Capuano) 617-621-6208