Weeks ago The Funeral Law Blog posted a story about the Death Master File and how criminals had used it to commit countless acts of fraud against the IRS. The Death Master File is a list put together by the Social Security Administration, which holds information on approximately 83 million deceased individuals. Names, dates of birth, dates of death, and social security numbers are just some of the information that can be found on the Death Master File. Criminals use this information to file fraudulent tax returns by claiming deceased persons as dependents.
In response to the rampant fraud, the Social Security Administration has taken steps to limit public access to the Death Master File as a potential remedy. This was accomplished through a provision of the recent Budget Act. The Act requires the Department of Commerce to develop a certification program that will allow only persons meeting certain criteria to have access to the Death Master File. However, this effort will not likely be enough to deter the seemingly sophisticated perpetrators of tax fraud.
There are avenues by which criminals could subvert this limited access. Some seem too simple to believe. One such avenue may be through the website Ancestry.com. As the link below reveals, a basic subscription to Ancestry.com allows a user access to the Death Master File along with a description of the information available in the file as well as searching tips for how to best find the deceased individual they may be looking for. While this is just one example illustrating how simple it may be to subvert the purported “limited access” to the Death Master File, it is a clear indication that more will be needed to prevent technologically savvy criminals from filing fraudulent tax returns.
Ancestry.com Death Master File Link