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Mistakes Lead to False Reports of Death


The Social Security Administration pays benefits to millions of Americans until they pass away. The agency has an interest in knowing when people pass away so it can stop paying those benefits.

When a person passes away his or her name, birth date and Social Security number are also listed in a public file known as the Master Death List. That list is used by banks, doctors’ offices, credit agencies, health insurers and many more to know when their customers have passed away and to prevent fraudsters from using a deceased person’s information in identity theft schemes.

The problem is that the Social Security Administration makes mistakes regularly as NPR reports in “Social Security Data Errors Can Turn People Into The Living Dead.”

Every month approximately 500 living people are falsely declared dead by the agency. That is actually down from a few years ago when it was about 1,000 people a month.

There is no malicious intent in the agency’s actions. The false information is almost always the result of human error and someone accidentally entering the wrong information into the system.

A total of 500 a month is also not a huge number relative to the millions of people tracked by Social Security, but it is a big headache for those who are wrongly reported to be deceased.

If at some point the Social Security Administration wrongly reports your death, do not hesitate to see an elder law attorney for help sorting everything out. You will not be the first person the government has wrongfully declared dead.

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