The Deathly Flaw Buried in the Budget Deal
Scamsters who gain access to the social security numbers of deceased Americans have fooled the Internal Revenue Service again and again. When Congress passed its budget bill last week, it attempted to end that fraud by walling off the nation’s “Death Master File.” But the premise, say forensic researchers and genealogists, is dead wrong.
The Death Master File, known to all who use it as the DMF, pools the death records of nearly everyone in the U.S. – who had a social security number – since 1936.
A large swath of the information is offered via the file’s public interface, the Social Security Death Index, and is used for everything from locating families of lost service personnel to finding the next of kin of those who are dying and unable to speak.
The data in the file also help forensic analysts work with geneticists to establish patterns of illness in order to qualify families for genetic testing, then track down family members at risk from killer diseases.