ID360 — Closing Death Records: “Silver Bullet” or Detour? — A Case Study — Updated

Last Fall, the readers of this blog were introduced to the work of the Center for Identity at the University of Texas.  ID Wise from the Center for Identity – Records Advocate

The Center for Identity sponsored the ID360 Conference in Austin last month at which speakers and panels of experts shared insights and at which a number of scholarly papers were presented.  2015 ID360 Foreword & Table of Contents

I was privileged to participate in the ID360 conference  and to share an on-going case study entitled  Closing Death Records:  “Silver Bullet” or Detour?,  A case study of Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.  Moss – Closing Death Records – Silver Bullet or Detour 

ID360 Poster

This poster was developed to facilitate discussion of the major findings  of a case study based upon Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which suggests that closing death records to combat identity theft is likely to be counterproductive.

Check back for further updates.  I am scheduled to present this on-going case study at the University of Kansas Law School on Monday, the 6th of July.   More to come.


KU Law

The 2011 Paradigm which provided a rationale for closing the Death Master File in 2013 assumed:  (1)  The DMF/SSDI was a substantial source of SSNs used in filing fraudulent tax returns in 2011.  (2) SSNs of deceased individuals needed to be protected in the same way we safeguard those of the living.  (3) Simple fix [Silver Bullet?] — just limit access to DMF.  (4)  Unstated Assumption: Nothing would be lost by closing this resource.

Preliminary analysis of the publicly available data suggests that none of these assumptions withstand rigorous scrutiny.  My thesis is that limiting access to death records was not the best or only way to reduce identity theft and that better alternatives are available.  This should be a recurring theme this fall and beyond.


This evolving case study has also been accepted for presentation at the RootsTech2016  Conference next February.  Preliminary analysis of additional data recently made available suggests that once the IRS starting using filters (likely including the DMF) in Dec 2011, they demonstrated a commendable and improving level of success in intercepting fraudulent tax returns using the SSNs of deceased individuals.

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Legal Advisor to Federation of Genealogical Societies; Former Associate Dean, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law; Colonel (retired), JAGC, USA

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