Should You Be Able to Claim Someone Else’s Dead Kid On Your Taxes?

Should You Be Able to Claim Someone Else’s Dead Kid On Your Taxes?

by Kerry Scott on 9 February 2012

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I’ve done a lot of things in the 3+ years since I’ve started this blog. I’ve dropped f-bombs, stomped off, stomped back, and talked way too much about boobs (both the figurative and literal ones). I’ve done all sorts of things to piss people off.

One thing I’ve never done, though, is talk politics. Even someone as mouthy as I am knows that politics are tricky, and that you should avoid talking about them. That’s why I never tell you that you should sign this petition or boycott that store or whatnot. I get annoyed when people are constantly telling me what I should think or how I should vote or when to call my congressman (who, incidentally, is a boob). The internet has enough of that stuff already.

So the fact that I’m about to tell you that you need to go and sign this petition right now is a clue that this is a big deal. I wouldn’t be going there if I didn’t think it was really, really important.

Here’s the deal:

People have been using the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to harvest Social Security numbers of dead children to claim them on their taxes. This is disgusting, and the IRS has the tools and technology to stop it right now. We need to demand that they do so.

There’s an easy and harmless way to ensure that this never happens again. I cannot imagine why we need 25,000 electronic signatures to do something so basic and obvious, but we do. Please sign the petition, and demand that the IRS use the tools they already have to put a stop to this.

We owe it to families who have been through this to ensure that this never happens again. This is an easy fix. Let’s fix it.

Note: In an ironic twist, the petition-signing site is wonky. If you have trouble, register yourself, then close your browser and re-open it, and THEN sign the petition. My next political post may well be one that asks the White House to please get a website that works.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Banai Lynn Feldstein February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Actually, no one has proven that the numbers were found in the SSDI. They are *blaming* the SSDI (because non-criminals can only find the information in legal settings such as that particular database), but it’s more likely that someone stole the information from medical records or somewhere else. What are the chances that the only stolen SS#s were from child cancer victims if they were found in the SSDI?


Kerry Scott February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm

That’s true…although the IRS should still be checking against the SSDI. That’s a no-brainer.


Meg February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I can’t believe some people would do this. They get away with it? Wouldn’t they get caught? I thought there is something that double check the SS numbers.


Skip Murray February 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

That is an excellent point. We now get our children a SS# at birth. Schools have their number, insurance companies, medical facilities, all kinds of places. The number could have come from any number of sources!


Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm

And then there area the half million kids who have had their identities stolen by their own parents ( – basically folks with bad credit records who decided to start fresh with their kids’ numbers. Removing the SSDI would do nothing to prevent that either.


Karen February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Surely makes one wonder doesn’t it? IF you enter YOUR child’s SS# wrong on your tax form it sure catches that one fast enough. They can stop the use of deceased children’s numbers, its just easier for our lawmakers to look the other way… so they do.


Dee Dee King February 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm

None of those testifying before the Ways and Means Sub-committee on Social Securty cited a single source that provided evidence that SSDI was used to commit any of these frauds. The father of the deceased child who’s number was used in a fraudulent tax filing admitted that he did not know, but assumed, the perpetrators used the publicly available SSDI because it was so easy for him to find online. Mistakes happen when numbers are written or key-punched incorrectly. Many people simply make up numbers for job applications and other instances when an SSN is needed. Smart Human Resources people check the publicly available SSDI in compliance with federal rules on hiring. The SSDI is used in the legal community and in commerce daily by the thousands. The objective is to get SSDI removed from public access – child ID theft is a real problem, but it is the facade for the effort to remove SSDI from public access.


Kerry Scott February 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I was in HR for 14 years. I used the SSDI to check SSNs of potential hires. Small businesses cannot afford expensive background check companies to do this.

The real issue, here, though, is that the IRS needs to do its job. There’s no need for us to even talk about the SSDI if the IRS does what it’s supposed to do. This is one of those things where you say to yourself, “Wait. They weren’t already doing that? Why not??”

We don’t need a complex explanation of how and why the SSDI is important if we can simply get the IRS to apply some common sense and learn to use a computer. This is a no-brainer.


Margaret E February 9, 2012 at 9:49 pm

So, tell me if I’m wrong… the SSDI IS NOT the problem. People using the SSDI to look for their ancestors IS NOT the problem. The problem is bad guys getting SS#s from OTHER places and then the IRS NOT using the SSDI to screen applications etc.

So if the IRS used the SSDI (which THEY created, how cool) they could screen out some of the bogus use of SS#

Did I get that right?


Kerry Scott February 10, 2012 at 9:07 am

Well, we don’t know whether the SSDI is the problem or not. It doesn’t matter, though, because the IRS needs to be checking numbers against it either way.

That’s why we’re focusing on the issue that the petition addresses, which is the fact that the IRS needs to be checking SSNs against the SSDI. If they do that, then there’s no reason to have a lengthy, complex discussion of how and why the SSDI is or is not used. It’s easier to just solve the problem then to get into a big drama…and if that gets done, there’s no need to even get into the SSDI thing.

The IRS needs to check numbers. Period. No brainer.


Louise February 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I agree that it is a no brainer also. The IRS should have been doing this all a long! How did you like Rootstech? I was unable to go this year but am thinking of going next year.


Kerry Scott February 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I loved RootsTech. I had gone last year, and I didn’t think they could make it better, but they did. It’s really a fantastic conference.


Pam Reid February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

While I agree that the IRS needs to do its job and prevent this kind of fraud by using the tools they have available to them, it bothers me greatly that the SSDI is being blamed as the problem. Identity theft is a huge, terrible problem but the legislation being proposed would take away a valuable tool that is used for preventing ID theft. We need more transparency in public records, not less. The implications of the proposed legislation are far reaching and completely unnecessary. Didn’t we already know that the IRS and many government agencies are not terribly competent? The SSDI is NOT the problem.


Kerry Scott February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm

That’s true. The petition really isn’t about the SSDI though. It’s about asking the IRS to use the tools it has to prevent identity theft. They’re two separate issues, and one is much easier for 25,000 people to understand than the other. Since the petition requires 25,000 signatures, it’s important to focus on one issue at a time, I think.

If the petition to get the IRS to do its job is successful, there’s no need for a complex, protracted discussion of the merits of the SSDI.


Rondina Muncy February 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

You would think with millions of genealogists we could come up with more than 2,000 signers. Perhaps we need to start hitting the county and state lists.


Susan Tiner February 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

The petition makes sense and I signed it.


C Schomaker February 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

How is the petition going to prevent Congress from passing the the Saving our “ID’s” act that will make it so only criminals have access to the Social Security Death Index? I am worried that Congress will interpret our petition as support for that foolish legislation.


Kerry Scott March 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

The petition asks that the IRS be required to use the SSDI to check numbers. If they do that, there’s no reason to close the SSDI. Doing the first thing makes the argument about the second thing moot.

That’s why you will not read a “Save the SSDI” post, tweet or status update from me. “Save the SSDI” is too complicated for 25K people to understand, so 25K signatures is impossible. “Ask the IRS to look up a number and see if it belongs to somebody who’s dead” is so basic and obvious that anyone can understand it. If we can shift the focus to that, we can get the signatures needed (although the deadline is near, and there was a whole lot of “Save the SSDI” talk, and we’re nowhere near the number we need…so I’m not super optimistic).

RPAC put together a list of FAQ that everyone should read. #4 addresses the reason the message shifted.


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