Last week, Representative Sam Johnson of Texas introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that, if passed, will limit access to Social Security numbers available online.
The act, entitled “Keeping IDsSafe Act of 2011″ (KIDS Act), is intended to end online access to the Social Security Death Master File. This file currently enables anyone to easily locate the Social Security number of a deceased person. The File has been used for more than ten years by identity thieves to, among other things, file bogus tax returns to the IRS and collect refunds.
The bill was introduced two days after senators met with the Social Security Administration Commissioner, Michael Astrue, to ask the agency to limit information currently released in the death file.
As reported in a recent Scripps Howard News Service article, the need for access to this file to be limited was graphically illustrated when the parents of Benny Watters of Lake Forest, Illinois filed a tax return in August of this year. Benny died at age 5 in September 2010 and the Watters tax return was rejected. Why? Someone else had stolen the boy’s identity and claimed him as a dependent!
There have been recent news reports that say the IRS flagged 350,000 potentially fraudulent 2010 tax returns requesting $1.25 billion in refunds using information gathered about the dead.
The bill introduced by Johnson would limit access to the death file to law enforcement. Tax administrators and government researchers.
To find out more about this topic and other online identity thefts, check out “Grave Robbers…How to Stop the Identity theft of the Deceased.”