ARLINGTON,VA (WUSA) --- Children, particularly children who have died, are an attractive target for identity thieves.
"Childrens' Social Security numbers and identities are particularly useful for identity thieves because there is no credit report established in a child's name, which means that if the thief is using it, that name will not ping up against a credit report, a fraud alert, any of the fraud detection bases so he can use it undetected for a much longer period of time," said Joanna Crane of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Her remarks come as public attention is focused on the plight of a local family whose daughter died of brain cancer two weeks before her fifth birthday in January.
Four-year-old Alexis Agin had struggled with the disease for 33 months before her death. Her parents, Jonathan and Neely, filed an extension of their tax return so they could assemble the numerous needed medical records and received a shock when they filed electronically last week. Their return was bounced by the IRS because someone else had already stolen Alexis' s Social Security number and used it to claim her as a dependent deduction.
In five days, 11 other families who have lost children to cancer have notified the Agins that they have had the same problem.
The Social Security numbers of dead Americans are generally available online on websites that subscribe to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File, which includes death information, including Social Security number of 83 million deceased Americans.
"It has created, in many respects, the perfect crime, " said Florida Senator Bill Nelson in congressional hearings.
"We've got to put a stop to this because it causes severe hardships for families like the Agins," Nelson said.
"Tougher laws and better enforcement are needed," he said in a statement to 9News Now.
"The Congressman is meeting with the Agin family within the week to discuss possible legislative solutions to this heart-wrenching fraud," said the office of the Agin's congressman, James Moran of Virginia.