Identity Theft of the Deceased

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide! How to Prevent Identity Theft of the Deceased?

Identity theft: It can happen to anyone, living or dead. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime worldwide.

Your identity does not automatically die with you.

Identity thieves used the name and Social Security number of someone who is dead to open thousands of new bank and credit card accounts.

In the United states, Ninety days after someone dies, their Social Security number is public information.

Social security number of the deceased is public to prevent fraud

Given the growing problem of identity theft and the importance of the Social Security number as a personal identifier in the United States, it might seem unusual that these identifiers are released publicly. However, because the documents held by the Social Security Administration are government records, it is required to make the information public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and is used to prevent fraud so that no one can steal the identity of a dead person, and take out a credit card or a bank loan in a dead person's name.

Source Information

Sysoon Europe: U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Sysoon Europe, 2011.

Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

About U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014

The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) currently contains over 94 million records. The file is created from internal SSA records of deceased persons possessing social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA. Often this was done in connection with filing for death benefits by a family member, an attorney, a mortuary, etc. Each update of the DMF includes corrections to old data as well as additional names. [NOTE: If someone is missing from the list, it may be that the benefit was never requested, an error was made on the form requesting the benefit, or an error was made when entering the information into the SSDI.] Beginning in 2014, legislative rules governing the SSDI changed. Going forward, records from the most recent 3 year period will not be available to Sysoon. Once a record is made available, it can be published.

Why can’t I see the Social Security Number? If the Social Security Number is not visible on the record index it is because Sysoon does not provide this number in the Social Security Death Index for any person that has passed away within the past 10 years.

This file includes the following information on each decedent, if the data is available to the SSA:

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Social Security Number
  • State issued
  • Birth date
  • Death date
  • Last residence
  • Lump sum payment

The absence of a particular person in the SSDI is not proof this person is alive. Additionally, there is a possibility that incorrect records of death have been entered on the DMF. The Social Security Administration does not guarantee the accuracy of the file.

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