Years ago, having the Social Security Administration publish a “Death Master File” was probably necessary. This may have been the only manner for various government agencies and insurance companies to learn that individuals had passed on.

Today, though, the information should only be disseminated to those who need it. Insurance companies should be able to subscribe to the list (as well as government agencies). However, is there any reason why John and Jane Doe need to have access to the list?

Well, one reason the Does need access is to commit identity theft: Three Utah men are accused of using the Death Master File for just that purpose. The men then created fake documents from phony employers to obtain tax refunds. The refunds reportedly were on the small side ($1,046 to $2,624). In any case, the IRS discovered the scheme and the men are now facing numerous charges of false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

While these three alleged identity thieves were caught, many more are finding the US government a great source of revenue while ruining the lives of innocent taxpayers. (Jason Dinesen, an EA from Indianola, Iowa, has run a story about a woman who is dealing with identity theft related to her late husband. This is almost certainly another case which stems from the Death Master File.) Identity theft makes the lives of victims miserable for years and is far too easy a crime for the thieves to commit. Ending the sale of information from the Death Master File would be a nice start to combating identity theft.