Petition Making the Rounds to Remove Social Security Numbers of Deceased Folks From Genealogy Websites

And now we have another assault on the limited access genealogists have to anything Social Security… Thus far, not exactly a bi-partisan effort, but just wait…

Where do these senators think those records with dead folk’s social security numbers in them came from? Hmmm… It seems the Federal government sold them to those websites, and have been for how many years? In my personal opinion, this is nothing but throwing the baby out with the bath water… But, as I said, that’s just my opinion.

The following is from the November 29, 2011 edition of nbc4i.com:

Columbus Ohio: An effort to stop web sites from giving out Social Security numbers of those who have died made progress this week.

NBC4 first reported on the Thomas family in May 2011. Samantha Thomas was an infant when she died from sudden infant death syndrome in 2010. While her parents were still mourning her death, they found out that someone had used her SSN on their taxes.

NBC4 stepped in, confirming that a branch of popular web site Ancestry.com was listing the full Social Security numbers of those who have passed on. It’s a way for criminals to get information fast.

Sen. Sherrod Brown [D] started a congressional investigation into genealogy web sites after the story was aired.

Brown started a petition to have the web sites remove the sensitive information and NBC4 has learned that Sen. Dick Durbin [D], Sen. Bill Nelson [D], and Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D] have signed on in support of the petition.

Read the full article and the news that led up to this move.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (www.FamilyRootsPublishing.com), writes daily at GenealogyBlog.com, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

9 thoughts on “Petition Making the Rounds to Remove Social Security Numbers of Deceased Folks From Genealogy Websites”

  1. I agree 100% . why would you want your dead fathers SSN????. I love Genealogy and work on it all the time. But I do not have a space or a reason to have their SSN. I have a dead grandaughter. I would feel violated and devastated if someone got and used her SSN. Thanks Pat Griggs

  2. I have been doing family anf friend research for almost 20 years. I think that removing the SS number from the SS death index would be fine. I have been using the SS death index the whole time I’ve been researching and have never had a reason to “need” the SS number. What I wanted was the death information including last place of residence. So, if the Senators want to black out the SS number and still let us have access to the death info, I’m fine with that. If the SS number is necessary for some reason which I am missing, please advise me.

  3. Usually, I don’t need the SSN when doing research; however, several times I have requested the actual record to find a mother’s maiden name, place of address or employer, etc.
    W/O that number, I would not be able to request a copy.

  4. Isn’t the SS number required to obtain a SS-5, Application for Social Security Number? This form contains birth and parent information which is much more reliable than a death certificate. I have copies of SS-5’s for all my ancestors and it means a lot to me to have their personal information as they knew it, and in their own handwriting.

  5. First of all my heart goes out to the family that found out their child’s SSN was used illegaly. However, I do use the SSDI to record info and have used it to order applications. I recently found my great uncle had a daughter. I had stored the Social Security Info (of this posssible relative) and received a call one day from a young lady ( who turned out to be his great great granddaughter) inquiring about my surname research and that possible relative who happened to be related to her. She had never thought to use the SSDI to order an application. She ordered the Social Security Application with the information I provided her. My Great Uncle was the father and it confirmed who her mother was which also confirmed marriage records I had found and that she had ordered. Without access we would have never found out who her father was or confirmed her mother. We need access to these records. I am sure they can design a program to run numbers that are illegally used for taxes, and employment purposes.

  6. I’ve used the SSDI on a regular basis to confirm various relations and possible relations and have ordered copies of original applications to both tie in relations to my family and to find parents’ names. It was extremely helpful. I think Congress, like many state legislature are going overboard restricting information. Identity thieves will just try another way to fake an ID, and I’m sure they did long before the SSDI went up. If businesses and the government themselves have not checked the SS numbers being used, it is their fault and they should not punish genealogists for accessing them through the SSDI for legitimate reasons.

  7. I feel sorry for the family too. But hey one thing leads to another. They take this away, then what next?. There is just no end to it. I say leave well enough alone!. Genealogy is not broke, don’t fix it!!. Don’t punish all of us, for one person’s crime.

  8. You do not need the SS# to order applications, although it costs $2 more.

    However, it is hard to see how the numbers could be used by most identity thieves, since creditors routinely check the Death Master File. In this case, someone was apparently claiming extra dependents on his tax form. The question is whether it would have been detected if the family had filed a hard copy, instead of online.

  9. It appears that these legislators are completely unaware of the primary purpose of the SSDI. It exists specifically so that employers, financial institutions and, yes, government agencies can determine when SSNs are being used fraudulently. If the IRS isn’t able to do that effectively, that’s a problem with the IRS, not the SSDI. Making the SSNs inaccessible defeats the intended purpose of the SSDI.
    That it’s used by genealogists is incidental.

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