The government is poised to limit public access to death records that identity thieves have used for years to commit tax fraud.
A provision in the budget measure cleared by the Senate on Wednesday would limit access to information in the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to certified entities that use the data to combat fraud and administer benefits. The limits would apply for three years after a death.
“We’re going to save the U.S. government money that otherwise is being stolen,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The changes would save the U.S. government an estimated $786 million over the next decade by reducing fraudulent claims, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The limits also might keep genealogists from seeing the records immediately.
Nelson and other lawmakers have been trying for several years to limit access to the death records. Tuesday, he cited the cases of children whose identities had been stolen after they died.
In a typical case, an identity thief files a tax return using a stolen Social Security number before the legitimate return could be filed, claiming a refund and plunging the real taxpayer’s family into months of limbo.