Posted by: Janette Silverman | February 8, 2012


Jan Meisels Allen has an update for us about the US House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security.  She reported earlier that they held a hearing on Feb 2 where the genealogical community was not invited to testify!  A video with the hearing was posted to the Subcommittee’s website on February 7: She suggests that everyone in the genealogy community  watch the entire video as the questions and answer session is very telling where everyone is on this issue.

Jan writes:
The written statements of the five invited witnesses may be read at

The “Legal Genealogist” posted a summary of the hearing which may be read
at:  scroll down to February 3

As a result of what happened at the hearing it is obvious that the
genealogical community is under attack and we have initiated a campaign:
“Stop Identity Theft NOW”-which is the real culprit-not genealogists!  See
below. “Call To Action for IRS To Do Its Job.”

The House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee held a
hearing on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), the commercial name of
the Death Master File (DMF) on February 2nd. The genealogical community was
told they were not invited to testify, unfortunately the Committee members
and those invited to testify  made the genealogy community the scapegoat for
identity theft, by focusing on the public access to the SSDI on genealogical
websites. One of the witnesses was a grieving father whose deceased child’s
social security number was stolen and used fraudulently for tax refunds by
the identity thieves. He was very concerned that his deceased daughter’s
Social Security number could be seen on the internet by anyone. The Social
Security Administrator spoke on behalf of the Administration and during the
question and answer period stated, genealogists do not need the SSDI, they
can get their information in other ways, and can wait as they do for the
release of US census for “75 years. It was reported that the Administration
is very concerned with who has access to the SSDI and the Office of
Management and Budget is working on the issue.

The House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security is
proposing to completely shut down use of the SSDI by genealogists as well as
other industries such as banking and insurance that rely upon its
information. Such an attempt is short-sighted and runs counter to the
original purpose of the SSDI: to actually combat fraud.

The subcommittee members indicated that this is a bi-partisan issue and both
the Democrats and Republicans will be working together to address this in
upcoming legislation.

Because of the negativity given the genealogical community at the hearing
the genealogical community, through the Records Preservation and Access
Committee (RPAC) [a joint committee whose voting members are the Federation
of Genealogical Societies, IAJGS and the National Genealogy Society with
participating members: APG, BCG, ASG, and ProQuest.] is
responding with a campaign to “Stop Identity Theft NOW”. The issue is that
the SSDI used appropriately is a mechanism to stop identity theft!

Call To Action For IRS To Do Its Job

Each year, fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from
recently deceased infants and adults are filed with the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS). The current target is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
or Death Master File since this file, as found on numerous
genealogy-oriented websites, could possibly be the source of identity
thieves acquiring a deceased person’s Social Security number.

The IRS could close the door to this form of identity theft if, in fact, it
were to use the Death Master File for the purpose for which it was created:
to reduce fraud. If returns claiming a tax refund were screened against the
Master Death File and matching cases identified for special processing, the
thief should receive a rejection notice for the filing.

Please  check  frequently  for information on what the
community is doing. In addition, IAJGS, FGS, NGS and RPAC will be submitting
statements for the record before the February 16 deadline for the record
closure.  I encourage you to go to the website and become involved and sign
the “White House “We the People Petition” now posted at
and accepting signatures, has a simple yet effective mission:

Take immediate steps that would curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund
claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults.

When on the “We the People” petition website you have to create an
account -name, e-mail address, location and create a password. The only
information  showing on the petition, is first name and first initial of
last name and location.  The White House requires 25,000 signatures within a
month to act!   Please have your voice counted!

Do not forget this is an issue where “you” need to contact your
Congressional representatives so that they hear us- access to public
information should not be the casualty in this fight! Only when we help our
elected representatives understand that using public records is the way to
stop fraud, not closing those records, can we protect all of the interests
we all have here.

To see who is on the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee go to: and scroll to the
The link by the Members name  on the full committee  roster connects to the
Members home page.

To find out your US House of Representative go to:
To find out your US Senator go to:

Please share this with your genealogical friends and your genealogical
society. If you have any problems with signing the petition, please let me

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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