Senate Finance Committee 16 April Hearing — Tax Fraud and Tax ID Theft

The information provided by the witnesses in this hearing give multiple reasons to be encouraged by the actions being taken to combat refund fraud and help victims of identity theft.  Their written statements are available at:  http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=62739085-5056-a032-5281-4500bf4d4fb3  The testimony of Steven T. Miller, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service described a number of significant steps they have taken.

Of the multiple congressional hearings addressing the threat of tax fraud by identity theft, this is the first to suggest that real progress is being made.  By targeting the criminal through the use of appropriate filters, investigation and aggressive enforcement, the efforts of identity thieves are being thwarted.  Hopefully, by publicizing the results of successful prosecutions and the award of substantial penalties to the offenders, others may be deterred.

To the extent that the SSDI on genealogical websites was ever the source of compromised SSNs then used to file fraudulent tax refund claims, the responsible actions taken by those websites should have denied access to that information.  In fact, while it is only informed speculation on my part that we should have seen few, if any, fraudulent returns attributable to SSNs accessed from the SSDI during the filing season just ended, the IRS should eventually be able to statistically confirm that that vulnerability targeting the deceased has been closed.

In the March 20, 2012 hearing on this topic before a subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, RPAC and its sponsoring organizations indicated that while most genealogist could accommodate a three year delay before accessing the SSNs of recently deceased persons, there were several categories of genealogical research for which a three year delay would be problematic.  This topic is explored in the Statement for the Record submitted by IAJGS found at:  IAJGS Statement to Senate Finance Committee April 16 2013 Hearing Final

A careful review of the steps reportedly taken by the IRS, especially when coupled with the step taken by responsible genealogical entities historically hosting the SSDI on their sites,  suggests that tax fraud by this particular form of identity theft may no longer be the risk it was in 2011.  The need for statutory restrictions on access to the SSDI may have passed.

The RPAC Statement for the Record suggesting that conclusion is found at:  RPAC Statement for Record Senate Finance 16 April 2013 Final

The most significant vulnerability in the IRS on-line tax refund process has finally been identified. We should continue to be concerned that the SSNs of living persons will continue to be vulnerable so long as the IRS is mandated to expedite the payment of refund claims before they have even received information returns necessary to determine their validity.

This message is one we must share with our friends and elected representatives.

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SSDI — Another Bill Restricting Access — SB 676

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allan.

While the press release by Senator Nelson did not include mention of the DMF/SSDI- although his opening hearing comments did, the actual bill language is now published and it is much more extensive than what was included in the press release.

 

On April 9 Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced SB 676 along with Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY). The bill restricts access to the Death Master File–of which the Social Security Death Index is the commercial version. Title III of the bill restricts access for the year of death or two succeeding calendar years unless the person is certified under the program by the Secretary of Commerce. Persons who may be certified include legitimate interest in preventing fraud or unauthorized financial transactions, applicable law, regulation, court order, or fiduciary duty, facilitate administration of an insurance policy and credit reporting. There are no provisions for genealogists to be certified. The bill also permits the Social Security Administration not to be compelled to provide information on Social Security information to those who are not certified. The bill also calls for cessation of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards and Medicare correspondence and contains provisions on penalties for those who fraudulently use another’s  identity expedited refunds for fraud and abuse victims and more.

 

To read the bill go to: http://tinyurl.com/btf35vh

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s676is/pdf/BILLS-113s676is.pdf

 

 

Jan Meisels Allen

IAJGS Vice President

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

 

 

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Texas — Update Pending

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Oregon — Update Pending

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Washington State — Update Pending

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Oklahoma Surprises — Update pending

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Georgia Archives — Update Pending

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RootsTech Aftershocks — Update Pending

1. GenealogicalPrivacy.org

2. Review of Guidelines and Best Practices

3. What can 501(c)(3)’s Do?

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RPAC at RootsTech

With over 6700 attendees pre-registered for the event  held in Salt Lake City this past week,  the Third Annual version of the RootsTech Conference has become the largest genealogical conference held in the United States.

On each of the three days of the conference there was held at least one session addressing records access issues of interest to genealogists.

On Thursday, David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer at Family Search and David Lifferth, Utah State Legislator discussed “Legal and Legislative Issues Facing Genealogists.”  A copy of their syllabus materials will be found here:  Legal_and_Legislative_Issues_Facing_Genealogists

Friday afternoon featured a well-attended  “Unconferencing “ session entitled  “Genealogists, Technologists, Privacy Advocates:  We REALLY need to talk!” which was moderated by prominent blogger Dick Eastman.  A spirited discussion followed introductory material presented by (1) Fred Moss, FGS Legal Advisor & RPAC  member, (2) J . Bradley Jansen, Director, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights , and  (3) Jim Dempsey, Vice President for Public Policy, Center for Democracy & Technology.  One focus was the role that RPAC is playing since joining the Digital Due Process Coalition last November.   http://www.digitaldueprocess.org   Jansen announced the launch that day of a new blog site addressing genealogical privacy issues found at: http://www.genealogicalprivacy.org/   This site was added that evening to http://www.cyndislist.com/genealogy-website/privacy/articles/  by Cyndi Howells who also participated in this session.

The National Genealogical Society-sponsored luncheon on Saturday featured NGS President Jordan Jones addressing “Internet Privacy and Security: Follies and Foibles.”  The slides from his presentation are available at:  http://www.slideshare.net/genealogymedia

Much more to come. Stay tuned.

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RPAC Alert — 2011 Revision of Model State Vital Statistics Act

Background: Many state vital records registrars have been operating since 1992 under state legislation based on the last approved Model State Vital Statistics Act which includes restrictions on access to birth records for 100 years and death, marriage, and divorce records for 50 years. The Model State Vital Statistics Act was developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a US government agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. The 1992 Model Act currently in effect, may be read at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/mvsact92b.pdf

A Working Group, consisting primarily of state and local vital statistics executives, was formed in 2009 to update the Model Act and after distributing a draft to vital records officers for comments in 2011, reported out their work as the 2011 Revision in May 2011. The draft was not distributed to the genealogical community for comments. In June 2011 the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) endorsed the 2011 Revision of the Model State Vital Statistics Act and Regulations and encouraged state vital registration executives to introduce legislation which supported the 2011 Draft Revision. The proposed Model Act extends the closure periods to 125 years after the date of a live birth, 75 years after the date of death, or 100 years after the date of marriage or divorce.  RPAC has responded to each state initiative when we were notified of pending legislation. You can read the proposed 2011 Model Act http://www.naphsis.org/about/Documents/FinalMODELLAWSeptember72011.pdf

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put the 2011 Revision “on hold” in April 2012. RPAC has contacted the Department of Health and Human Services and requested that prior to adoption, the proposed 2011 Revised Model Act should be made available for public review and comment.

Action Steps: Recently we have seen bills introduced in several states in which the language used may have been suggested by the 2011 Revision and we fear more restrictive vital records legislation may be introduced in additional states during the current legislative sessions.  Bills may be introduced under the guise of “privacy” legislation. If you learn of any pending “vital records” legislation in your state, please notify RPAC immediately at access@fgs.org. Also visit the RPAC website at www.FGS.org/RPAC and review the “State Tool Kit for State Liaisons” developed by Jan Meisels Allen on how to contact your state legislators. It is important for genealogists to write their legislators and request that their leaders be asked to testify at hearings. The states do not have to follow the 2011 Revised Model Act, so based upon the existing closure periods, you have an opportunity to influence the outcome.

RPAC is a joint committee of FGS, NGS, and IAJGS as voting members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen), and the American Society of Genealogists (ASG) also serve as participating members. By invitation, RPAC also includes participation from a few commercial providers of genealogical information. RPAC meets monthly to inform and advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to vital records and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices at the federal, state, and occasionally the local level.

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