Archive for the ‘Vital Records’ Category
If enacted as proposed, a provision in the federal 2014 Budget would eliminate most public access to the Death Master File, also known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The United States Department of the Treasury is recommending a significant change to the SSDI that would “restrict immediate access to the DMF to those users who legitimately need the information for fraud prevention purposes and to delay the release of the DMF for three years to all other users.”
The full but short Treasury proposal (page 203):
RESTRICT ACCESS TO THE DEATH MASTER FILE (DMF)
The DMF is a list of deceased individuals maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that is updated weekly. SSA created the DMF in response to a 1980 consent judgment that requires SSA to provide certain personally identifiable information about deceased individuals under the Freedom of Information Act. The DMF contains the full name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth, date of death, and the county, state, and zip code of the last address on record for decedents. This information is publicly available and, pursuant to the consent judgment, released weekly by SSA, and many websites publish the information included on the DMF free or for a nominal fee.
Some DMF users need immediate access to the DMF for fraud prevention purposes, such as pension administrators who use DMF data to terminate payments. Others use the information for purposes that are not time -sensitive, such as genealogy research. A third group, however, uses the DMF for illegitimate purposes, including identity thieves who use the DMF to steal the names and SSNs of recent decedents, which information identity thieves then use to file fraudulent tax returns.
Reasons for Change
Refund-fraud related identity theft has grown exponentially in recent years. Fraudulent tax returns using a decedent’s identifying information are difficult to detect before improper refunds are paid, because the Internal Revenue Service may not discover that identity theft has occurred until a surviving family member files an income tax return claiming the decedent as a dependent or files the decedent’s final income tax return.
Restricting immediate access to those users with a legitimate fraud prevention purpose while delaying the release for other users protects the privacy interests of decedents, reduces opportunities for identity theft, and restricts information sources used to file fraudulent tax returns while still making the information on the DMF available to users who have a legitimate need for the information.
The proposal would restrict immediate access to the DMF to those users who legitimately need the information for fraud prevention purposes and to delay the release of the DMF for three years to all other users.
The proposal would be effective upon enactment.
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Government agencies, financial lenders, family history researchers and private investigators all have an interest in verifying whether a person has died, where and the circumstances. Here are some free resources to get you started with your search:
- Free Genealogy and Family History Sources & Databases is a page of resources I’m still building but it has links to a variety of sites for finding and verifying a death. It includes area specific and aggregated sources for death indexes, newspaper obituaries and death notices, cemeteries and the Death Master File aka Social Security Death Index.
- County Vital Records of deaths may be indexed online. Notices of deaths are sometimes buried(!) in county or town year-end reports.
- Deaths can be searched onsite at the county vital records recorder. If you don’t have the exact spelling you may be able to Wildcard your
county public record searches.
- Directories of Public Records online supplement your search with direct links to burials and deaths indexed by states, counties and private entities. All directories are incomplete. Even though this is a good one, you’ll find additional death indexes on my page, Free Genealogy and Family History Sources & Databases, that aren’t here.
- Search newspapers directly through their sites but also through the aggregated news site Google News and News Archive for mentions of your subject, which may identify where they lived, if not provide an obituary. Recorded deaths that are not at the government website of vital records may be in Newspaper databases of public records.
- Find the burial sites of military veterans and their spouses in the National Gravesite Locator .
- State government divisions of the Secretary of State, the state library and the state archive have digitized records. The documents and indexes that aren’t online are available for free at the agency repository. Often, the catalog of holdings is at the website.
- The New Orleans Public Library, Guide To Genealogical Materials details the various entities that have collected death and burial records and where they can be researched, which will guide you to types of sources you can find in Louisiana and other states.
- Search in various search engines using variations of the subject’s name: [First name Middle name Last name], [First name Middle initial Last name], [Last name First name Middle name]. Search names of relatives. Search birth names and married names. Add a city where they last lived or where they grew up or other identifiers, such as a business name.