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Death and Taxes—and Social Security Numbers

Written by Becca Youngs for NortonLifeLock

Nothing is certain in life, they say. Just death and taxes.

That’s why a new report issued by the Office of the Inspector General recently caught my eye—because it appeared that the death part seemed less certain than I thought. The report found that there are more than 6.4 million active U.S. Social Security numbers for people in the age category of 112+.

Huh? Where did all those people come from?

If you’re reading this statistic wondering how you too can drink from the Fountain of Youth that this immortal group seems to have found, then you’re not alone. I’m right there with you.

Turns out – as you may have already suspected – that this finding is only one small piece of the larger story. In fact, there are only 40 people in the U.S. over the age of 112. That sounds a lot more realistic to me.

So how do we account for the 6.4 million people that the report found to have Social Security numbers? The answer is that these Social Security numbers belong to deceased individuals, whose identities have been stolen by thieves. Criminals have stolen the numbers in order to open credit and utility accounts – even file taxes. To make matters worse, debt collectors often go after the late victim’s families, sticking them with the bills. For families who may have recently lost a loved one, this can be especially painful and frustrating.

If you know someone who is handling the financial affairs of someone who has recently passed away, you may want to share these tips, taken from the book, Stolen Identity, written by independent journalist Katie Morell and published by LifeLock:

  • Cancel benefits: Notify the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213) and the sources of any pensions or other benefits. Until the providers know about the death, it’s possible that fraudsters will try to get access to those benefits.
  • Handle the bills: Call credit card companies, mortgage holders, utilities, and other companies that did business with the deceased person. Accounts should be closed when possible, or moved into your name or the name of the estate.
  • Notify the three major credit-reporting agencies: Fraudsters sometimes use the names of the recently deceased to apply for credit.
  • Protect the mail: If the person lived alone, ask the post office to forward mail to your address so it doesn’t pile up.
  • Secure important documents: birth and death certificates, paperwork for mortgages and credit accounts, medical records, and other identifying information should be stored in a safe place.
  • Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license by notifying the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Close out cell phone, email, and social media accounts.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Norton LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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