Being incorrectly reported as dead can make people much more vulnerable to identity theft.
That's because the personal information of the deceased, including their Social Security numbers, is published in the Social Security Administration's death master file, CNNMoney reported Wednesday. That file also publicizes the names, birth dates and addresses of those believed to be deceased. The agency says one in every 200 entries are incorrect.
A person can be mistakenly added to the agency's death master file if a funeral director puts the wrong Social Security number on a death notice, for example. And although the Social Security Administration can fix the mistake, the personal information of 28% of people who were wrongfully added to the file was found to remain available elsewhere, the article said.
Being wrongfully declared dead puts people "at a high risk for identity theft," the article said. It also could cause people to lose government benefits and access to their finances.
The Identity Theft Resource Center says that to correct the mistake, a person should find out where the death was reported and get an amended death certificate, CNNMoney reported. An amended death certificate can prove to the Social Security Administration that the original death notice was issued in error.
The Social Security Administration says it has a simpler process: "seeing the person face-to-face and verifying some form of current ID," spokesman Mark Hinkle told CNNMoney. The agency can then provide a written letter to show other companies, such as banks, that it once again believes the person to be alive.