10News in San Diego reported yesterday on culprits stealing the identities of the recently departed.
Thieves cull private information from newspaper obituaries and from the Internet -- mainly genealogy sites that post the Social Security numbers of the deceased taken directly from the Social Security Administration's "master death index." [Link]But don't worry—we won't be losing the SSDI anytime soon. In truth, the role of the index is exactly the opposite of what was reported: it prevents identity theft. Here's how an SSA commissioner explained it to Congress in 2002:
SSA receives reports of deaths from a number of sources, and from computer matches with death data from Federal and State agencies. This information is critical to the administration of our program and is made available to facilitate the prevention of identify theft of the SSN's of deceased persons. Many of the private sector companies purchasing this information are credit card companies and financial institutions. [Link]