In the past two years, I have been writing about the misplaced threats to one of genealogists' major resources of information: the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI. For background information, see my earlier articles: Commentary About Social Security Numbers in the SSDI at http://goo.gl/AmRmW, Another Bogus Report Concerning one Cause of Identity Theft at http://goo.gl/RdHQI, and The Easy Way to Commit Identity Theft at http://goo.gl/xEvK7.
This valuable resource performs several functions. For genealogists, it provides birth information about ancestors who died in the last third of the twentieth century or even in the twenty-first. For credit card companies, banks, credit reporting agencies, loan companies, and others, the listing of Social Security Numbers in the monthly updates provides valuable information that prevents identity theft. By publishing those numbers widely, the Social Security Administrations is saying, "Don't give credit to anyone using one of these Social Security Numbers as it is attempted fraud!"
Now, mis-guided politicians, urged on by news media who obviously don't understand the fraud prevention benefits of the SSDI, are attempting to block publishing and distribution of this valuable data. These people believe that blocking publication will reduce identity theft. However, a simple consideration of the facts will show the opposite to be true.
For proof: Ancestry.com has already removed the Social Security Death Index from its free RootsWeb web site. Going to http://searches.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ssdi.html now displays a message of "Due to sensitivities around the information in this database, the Social Security Death Index collection is not available on our free Rootsweb service but is accessible to search on Ancestry.com."
Sensitivities? Whose sensitivities? Those of dead people? or those of identity thieves who would like to block law enforcement officials from being able to identify fraud?
Megan Smolenyak has published a must-read article, Are We Going to Lose the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?, at http://megansmolenyak.posterous.com/are-we-going-to-lose-the-social-security-deat. As Megan wrote, "...the very reason this database is made public is so that everyone – corporations, government agencies, and even small business owners like myself – can protect themselves against fraud."
I wish every politician and every newspaper reporter would read these articles. Publishing Social Security Numbers every month PREVENTS identity theft, not causes it! The SSDI is a valuable resource that says, "Don't give credit to people using these numbers." And now some people want to block publishing of this information?
Give me a break!
Please pass the word.