To the editor:
Here's a list you would be caught dead on - and it's costing the federal government millions. It's the Death Master File, a database that contains the names and Social Security numbers of more than 83 million Americans whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration, tax collectors, pension systems, insurance companies and credit reporting agencies who use the data to prevent fraud.
Scammers have also use those Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns for recently deceased people, costing the federal government millions in improper tax refunds. Treasury Department audits have found that the IRS frequently issues refunds before checking to see if the recipient is deceased.
This time of the year criminals may file tax returns using the identities of the dead and collecting the refunds. In the 2011 tax year alone, there were 19,000 such fraudulent returns. As part of the budget deal in December, Congress voted to close public access to the data.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that limiting access to the file could save the government $786 million over the next 10 years. So why is it still open?
As the tax filing season opens and closes this year the death files were still open to the public As long as those files are open, they're a target of opportunity for identity thieves.