We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

Identity theft: When millions of dead people apply for credit cards

Seems that the threat of identity theft doesn't end, even with death. Identity thieves apply for millions of credit cards per year using personal information of the deceased, a study shows.

The identification data for nearly 2.5 million dead people -- names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers -- are used by criminals to fill out credit card applications each year, according to a study performed by ID Analytics.

BACKGROUND: IRS: Top 10 things every taxpayer should know about identity theft

MORE: The Most Mortifying Moments in IT Security History

The majority of those -- about 1.6 million -- are typos made by identity thieves when entering Social Security Numbers, and thereby flagging matches with SSNs listed in the Social Security Administration Death Master File, the study says.

The other 800,000 are cases where the thieves intentionally tapped the death rolls for data to fill in the credit applications, according to ID Analytics.

Not all the misuse of data from the Death Master File is intentional, the study says. Sometimes thieves make up names, SSNs and birthdays to fill in fields on payment card applications, and they happen to create identities with partial matches for entrants in the death file.

The results were based on about one-third of actual credit card application data submitted over three months and then extrapolated to a full year.

The study says the thieves use identities of hundreds of thousands more people who are dying based on the number of applications with information from the Death Master File but that were filed before the people actually died.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

IDG UK Sites

Sky to offer mobile phone contracts with O2: Will Vodafone make a move?

IDG UK Sites

Windows 10: a guaranteed success. Probably.

IDG UK Sites

Do we need to fight the government again over design and art education?

IDG UK Sites

How to make money selling books on the iBookstore, publish your book in Apple's book store