13 February 2012

My Take On the SSDI

Preventing fraud is a necessary evil in our modern society. The question is does more information prevent fraud or does it cause it?  Does ready access to the names of deceased Americans make it easier for criminals to commit fraud in their names or does it allow companies to "flag" those numbers and identities as ones who shouldn't be out buying a car? There are some who think that restricting access to this information will make it more difficult to deceive people using this information. I'm not so certain.

Limiting access to information is not going to stop fraud. In fact it's only going to make it more difficult for legitimate businesses to catch people who are using deceased social security numbers for fraudulent purposes. Now an employer, loan officer, etc. can easily determine if a social security number belongs to a deceased person. Heck even little ol' me can do it. If we restrict access to this information does that mean people won't try and commit fraud? I don't think so--it will just make it more difficult for the businessman to catch him before it is too late. Who pays for the fraud that gets caught too late? The business who gets "taken." And that cost, which ends up being a cost of doing business, gets passed on to honest consumers.

The IRS has ways they can prevent the use of the social security numbers of recently deceased individuals in the submission of tax returns. It is easier to say that the SSDI  (the Social Security Death Index--the "Master Death File" is the problem when it's not--it's the failure of agencies to flag the numbers of recently deceased people as deceased. Open access to the SSDI allows banks, credit unions, credit card companies, and others who grant credit, etc. to easily see if the number on an application has recently been reported as belonging to a deceased individual. It makes it EASIER for these businesses, particularly smaller ones with limited budgets to DO BUSINESS. Let's not require small businesses, already strapped for cash, to pay for access to information that now is readily available.

Why should the average person care about open access to information? Because the free-flow of information is crucial to the functioning of the American economy.

You can sign the petition here. You're not exposing yourself to fraud by doing so. All you need to give out is your name, email and zip code.

Here is what the FTC has to say about identity theft http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft//consumers/about-identity-theft.html

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