Identities of dead children still being stolen despite new law - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Identities of dead children still being stolen despite new law


A Channel 4 I-Team investigation found identity thieves still stealing the Social Security numbers of deceased children, despite a law passed in 2013 designed to stop the crimes.

Andrea Weaver, of Mt. Juliet, thought she had been through the worst when her 10-year-old daughter, Linsey, died last year in a car accident.

But when Weaver and her husband went to file their taxes earlier this month, they learned that Linsey's identity had been stolen.

"I just lost it. I just felt like I'd lost my baby all over again," Weaver said.

For years, identity thieves have been accessing what's called the Death Master File, a government list of everyone who has died.

But in December 2013, Congress passed a law ordering the U.S. Department of Commerce to close the Death Master File to everyone except for agencies and businesses that need it for legitimate verification purposes.

But after the Weaver family contacted the Channel 4 I-Team, we got onto the Death Master File, paid $10 and were able to get Linsey's Social Security number ourselves.

"It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous to think it's that easy to get a hold of someone's Social Security number," Weaver said.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-TN, was among the lawmakers earlier this month attending a committee when it was revealed that the Death Master File was still open.

"We thought that this was taken care of," Black said.

In the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-TX, asked the IRS for a status update.

"With tax-filing season underway, doesn't the Commerce decision mean that the Death Master File can still be used by identity thieves?" Johnson asked.

"I was not aware that Commerce had kept it open, but if it is open, then it can be used," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

"To find out this has not been taken care of does make you say, 'OK, let's stop. Let's look at this again. Let's get this fixed once and for all,'" Black said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Commerce directed our questions to a website that explains why the file is still open.

The website reads that the commerce department is establishing a "fee-based certification program for all persons desiring access to DMF data."

The website states that the certification program is scheduled to begin next month, which is long after the tax season is underway.

The Weaver family said the thieves who stole Linsey's identification used her Social Security number on Jan. 31, the first day people could file for tax refunds.

"Whoever did it, probably got their W2 and filed that day," said Karen Weaver, Linsey's grandmother.

It could take the Weavers up to six months to get a refund because they now have to prove to the IRS that Linsey was, in fact, their child.

"It's just so wrong to use a dead child's Social Security number for their benefit," Karen Weaver said.

According to the IRS, in 2013, more than 1,000 people were indicted for stealing identities for tax purposes.

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