Geoff Rasmussen to speak at the Colorado Genealogical Society Seminar March 17, 2012
Legacy user group to form in Cleveland, Ohio

The U.S. Social Security Death Index is being threatened - how you can help

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was one of the very first resources I learned about when I began genealogy in the early 1990s. Today it is still one of the most valuable resources for the U.S. genealogist. Now the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security is proposing to completely shut down its use by genealogists and other industries. Please participating in preserving the use of this important database. The official announcement and instructions for signing the petition are below.


Genealogy Community Responds To Efforts To Remove Access to Social Security Death Index and Other Records

Instructions for signing up at and signing the petition can be found at Frequently asked questions about signing the petition are available here.

February 7, 2012– Austin, TX: The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) – a joint coalition of international genealogical societies representing millions of genealogists and family historians – announces the launch of its Stop ID Theft NOW! campaign with its We The People petition posted at

Call To Action For IRS To Do Its Job

Each year, fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults are filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The current target is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) or Death Master File since this file, as found on numerous genealogy-oriented websites, could possibly be the source of identity thieves acquiring a deceased person’s Social Security number.

The IRS could close the door to this form of identity theft if, in fact, it were to use the Death Master File for the purpose for which it was created: to reduce fraud. If returns claiming a tax refund were screened against the Master Death File and matching cases identified for special processing, the thief should receive a rejection notice for the filing.

Tax Fraud and Identity Theft: Genealogists Are Not To Blame

The House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security is proposing to completely shut down use of the SSDI by genealogists as well as other industries such as banking and insurance that rely upon its information. Such an attempt is short-sighted and runs counter to the original purpose of the SSDI: to actually combat fraud.

Loss of Access to SSDI Affects More Than Genealogists

The SSDI is accessed by many different companies, non-profits and other entities besides individuals researching their family history. Forensic specialists utilize the SSDI when reuniting remains of military veterans with their next-of-kin and descendants. Law offices, banks and insurance companies utilize the SSDI to resolve probate cases and to locate heirs.

All of these entities would be required to spend more money and more time leveraging other resources of information when the SSDI has served this purpose, uninterrupted, for over a decade.

RPAC Petitions Obama Administration

The We the People petition, now posted at and accepting signatures, has a simple yet effective mission:

Take immediate steps that would curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults.

[Note: Visitors to the website must log in to sign the petition, or click Create an Account to register. Once registered, return to to sign the petition.]

No need for lengthy hearings in front of a Congressional committee. No need for filing statements for or against any House action. No need to waste time and effort which could be directed to more pressing national issues. In fact, the National Taxpayer Advocate in 2011 issued suggestions which do not require additional legislation but can be implemented collaboratively between the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA) almost immediately in time to impact the current tax filing season.

About Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC)

The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) was formed to advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to historical records of genealogical value in whatever media they are recorded, on means to affect legislation, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices.

The genealogical community works together through The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), which today includes The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as voting members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), the American Society of Genealogists (ASG), ProQuest and serve as participating members.To learn more visit


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I think this attempt to shut down the Social Security Death Index is also an attempt against the freedom of information act. I agree that posting the social security numbers was stupid in this day when their is so much theft, but allowing businesses to have access to this information would allow businesses to see that a person is dead and not issue credit to a job for the individual. Genealogists are not the one causing this problem. I also think this is one more step for the government to have control over information. My feeling is that Big Brother should be busy correcting the economy, and other problems and turning this country around instead of trying to keep information from the people. Secrets only breed bigger thieves, the government kind. This is a freedom issue not just a genealogy issue.

Much of this issue about fraud with SSNs would become moot if only the government would simply start using PIN numbers. Banks, credit card companies and a myriad of other companies have been using PINs and passwords for DECADES. You don't fix a flat tire by rebuilding the engine. Oh well, they're still writing checks without spelling out the amounts in words like every sensible person/company today writes checks and that simply invites fraud too. The problem is systemic, it's not their money and not their lives, so why care whether the fix causes new problems without fixing the current ones? So what's the real motive?

Why not just eliminate the SSN from the public database and allow the other information to remain?

If I were King...I would set up a National Bureau within the SSA, whose only purpose is to collect deceased individual's vitals from all the States and cross reference those statistics with active benefit recipients. Thereby, when a person dies, the National Bureau would be notified and the National Bureau would check to see if that individual was receiving benefits and automatically terminate said benefits.

All Department of Health divisions in all states would be required to report to the National Bureau any and all deaths reported in their jurisdiction. The National Bureau would obtain, monitor and post deaths giving access to all thereby reducing this kind of Social Security fraud to a minimum.

The reduction of the monetary fraud committed each year by this kind of fraud to the SSA, would more than pay for the creation of a new division within their organization devoted to obtaining, organizing and correlating death information of deceased persons receiving Social Security benefits.

I recently saw a report where a man collected his father's social security benefits for years after his father had died and the SSA didn't discover the fraud until the son had died.

The National Bureau would also be useful in storing deceased person's records so that anyone trying to use a deceased person's name, dob and/or social security number for theft identify would alert the bureau to this fraud. I knew from my police training that crooks would obtain birth certificates of deceased children and assume their identity in order to create a false identify. How...because no one knew that the child in question had died years ago.

If all the deceased individual's vitals were housed in a National location, then all agencies, i.e., Banks, Credit Unions, Police, Schools, Airports and other interested institutions requesting information on that person could check with the National Bureau to see if the name, dob and/or Social Security Number of the person has already been listed as deceased.

But...alas, I am not King and since it is not their money, government bureaucrats don't really care.

Floyd Thomas Pratt F.H.C., M.A.G.I.

The biggest identity thieves are those who our government are allowing into this country illegally. I lived in Northern Virginia which has a large population of illegal aliens and on a daily basis I was getting phone calls from creditors for people with foreign-sounding names. It was obvious someone was using my phone number on credit card applications. I was even called by the FBI. As someone pointed out, the problem isn't with genealogists. It's with our government who has no regard for its citizens. Fix the serious immigration problem and everything else will be fixed.

I've also been a victim of identity theft several times. They need to use alternate means instead of SSN's when dealing with any business and government. How much damage can be done to a dead person? With inheritance taxes, the government will get most of it anyway.

An attack on the SSDI would not cure the theft problems and appear to be a shotgun answer to the many forms of Federal hacking to indulge in felony crimes.
The SSDI is a cheap and easy to use method of locating family members and friends who have passed on. It is evident recently that many of the Pay-For-Information sites would like to see the free information on the WEBSITE dissappear and force people to pay for this information. Don't remove it, work around it.
Kermit Mercer, February 17, 2012

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