RPAC launches “Stop Identity Theft NOW” Petition

With thanks to RPAC Member Jan Meisels Allen:

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.

 

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 they 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.

 

The February 2 hearing video was posted to the website today: http://waysandmeans.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=133.

 

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

http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=276835

 

The “Legal Genealogist” posted a summary of the hearing which may be read at:

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/  scroll down to February 3 posting.

 

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, Ancestry.com 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 see http://fgs.org/rpac  for information on what the genealogical 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 http://wh.gov/khE 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.

 

Please share this with your genealogical friends and your genealogical society. If you have any problems with signing the petition, please  contact us at access@fgs.org

 

 Much more to come.  Please stay tuned.

 

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