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Sam Johnson: U.S. Congressman, Third District of Texas

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Press Release

Sam Johnson Introduces the Keeping IDs Safe Act

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Washington, Nov 18, 2011 | comments

Today, U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03) introduced the Keeping IDs Safe Act to better protect Americans’ Social Security numbers.

Since 1980, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been required to make publically available the Death Master File – a file containing the personal information of Americans who have died.  Recently, the Death Master File has recently become a resource for criminals seeking to capitalize on Americans’ identities – specifically the identities of deceased children.

“That’s just wrong,” stated Johnson, who serves as Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee.  “Worrying about a loved one’s Social Security number is the last thing a grieving family should have to do.”

To make matters worse, each year approximately 14,000 individuals are incorrectly listed as deceased on the Death Master File, according to SSA.  Mistakenly being placed on this list can cause severe financial hardship, such as the loss of benefits.

Despite the SSA Inspector General’s recommendation that the Death Master File should limit personal information to the absolute minimum and consider alternatives to displaying Social Security numbers, recent news reports reveal that the IRS flagged 350,000 potentially fraudulent 2010 returns requesting $1.25 billion in refunds using deceased Americans’ information.

“We need to stop making it so easy for criminals to gain access to our personal information.  This bill will stop the sale of the Death Master File immediately, better protecting Americans against fraud,” said Johnson.

In a related matter, Johnson took to the House floor to introduce the Keeping IDs Safe Act.  Remarks follow:

“Since 1980, Social Security has been required to publically put deceased Americans’ personal information into a so-called Death Master File which was meant to help prevent payment and benefit fraud.   Nearly anyone can get this information – including identity thieves.

Identity theft affects not only swindled businesses and American taxpayers, but grieving families whose suffering is made worse when they learn that someone has been preying on the death of their loved ones.  Criminals are exploiting this information in order to profit off of deceased children by applying for tax refunds.

That’s plain wrong. 

Every year, Social Security puts about 14,000 Americans in this death file who aren’t dead.  Any of us could be put on that list by mistake- a mistake that can result in severe financial hardship and emotional heartache.

Americans deserve better.  So today I am introducing the Keeping IDs Safe Act to stop the sale of the Death Master File immediately.  I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

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