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U.S. Senator Nelson wants Social Security numbers of dead Americans pulled off web

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two weeks after an ABC2 News investigation into the release of Social Security numbers onto public websites, a United States Senator says he’ll work to immediately have some of the data withheld.

In an interview with our colleagues at Scripps Howard News Service, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida says he and Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois will be meeting with the Social Security Administration next week to request certain information be held back from the Social Security Death Master Index immediately as pushes legislation on the issue. 


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ABC2 Investigation: Stealing from the Dead


The government’s Death Master File, as we uncovered as part of an ABC2 News investigation, includes personally identifying information for dead Americans, such as their name, Social Security number and date of birth.  Our story showed that private companies request the file under the Freedom of Information Act and publish it on the internet, where experts say it can be used for illegitimate purposes.

Nelson has introduced a bill that will give the Social Security Administration the discretion to hold back Social Security numbers for two years following an person’s death.  Nelson explains, “In the old days, this information was available publicly, but it wasn’t instant because they didn’t have the Internet.  Now it’s done in real time.”

And as a result Maryland families and others say they’ve been victimized.  ABC2 spoke with two families as part of our story, whose deceased children were victims of identity theft.  In both of those cases, the babies’ Social Security numbers were used to file fraudulent tax returns.  They believe their information was pulled from the now public database.  Nelson says tragic tales like that compelled him to act.  He says, “The stolen identities and ripping off the taxpayer by getting tax refunds is an outrage and that’s why we’re going to pass the law and stop this nonsense.”

Terry McClung, of Carroll County, has been an activist for this kind of measure since the death of his daughter, Kaitlyn.  He testified at a Senate hearing organized by Senator Nelson earlier this year.  Hearing Nelson’s plan, he tells ABC2, “The support from the media, spreading the word about this throughout the country, is what I believe has finally shed light on this matter. And now that the word is getting out, more and more people are seeing that this is obviously wrong!”

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