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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Companies Want Centralized Death Database

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NU Online News Service, Nov. 20, 11:19 a.m. – The Financial Services Coordinating Council, Washington, says the federal government could increase national security and protect financial services companies from fraud by doing a better job of publishing the Social Security numbers of U.S. residents who have died.

The council is recommending that the government or a vendor set up a frequently updated, centralized, searchable, affordable death database.

John Dugan, a council lobbyist, recommended the changes in Washington at a recent hearing on identity theft organized by two subcommittees of the House Financial Services Committee.

Members of the subcommittees want to keep terrorists and other criminals from stealing the Social Security numbers and identities of law-abiding Americans.

The Social Security Administration now updates its list of deaths, the Death Master File, once a month.

Insurers and other financial services companies use information from the DMF to verify Social Security numbers, to detect applicants who are trying to use stolen identities, and to detect fraudulent transactions based on confusion about whether customers are alive or dead, Dugan.

Dugan complained that the DMF database comes out in a hard-to-search format.

Today, “the most practical way to use the list is through intermediaries that convert the DMF into a searchable database,” Dugan said. “This service by third-party vendors is valuable but can be costly, and cost can thus be a deterrent to use of the DMF.”

The financial services council represents five Washington-based trade groups ? the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Insurance Association, the Investment Company Institute, the American Bankers Association and the Securities Industry Association.

Written versions of the testimony presented by Dugan and other hearing participants are available on the House Financial Services Committee Web site, at


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