Political Notes: Capuano wants Social Security numbers secret

February 15, 2013
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Local U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano is expected to file legislation to prevent Social Security numbers of deceased people from being publicly available, according to a press release. Social Security numbers can be used for identity theft.

The Social Security Administration currently publishes the Death Master File (DMF), which includes the full name, Social Security number, date of birth, county, state and ZIP code of deceased individuals. It is updated regularly and people can access the database for as little as $10.

“There is really no reason why the Social Security number of someone who has passed away should be available to anyone for a few dollars. The [Internal Revenue Service] has identified this as a problem and Congress should act quickly to close this loophole,” said Capuano, according to the press release.

The DMF is used for various purposes, including by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies to determine when to stop paying benefits and by medical researchers in tracking deaths and the spread of disease. Capuano’s legislation would not stop administrators from maintaining the DMF, but would prohibit the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals from being made public.