It sounds like a joke to be declared dead when you are very much alive, but if it’s the Social Security Administration that makes the mistake -possibly with just a typo- it can cause all sorts of problems for the living. And it could be years before you even find out about it.
Since 1980, it has maintained the Death Master File, a database of more than 86 million deceased, SSN-holding Americans. When you are medically recorded as dead, you are included in this master file and your SSN is retired, disabling any future use; a few weeks later, Medicare, the IRS, law enforcement, and employers essentially “scratch you out of existence.”
In 2011, the Office of the Inspector General conducted an audit of the Death Master File, and found that, from May 2007 to April 2010, 36,657 living people (12,219 per year) had been prematurely added, nulling them legally dead. After probing deeper, officials estimated that between 700 and 2,800 people were erroneously declared dead every month since the list’s inception. Over the file's 35-year history, the Inspector General suspects that more than 500,000 Americans have been affected.
Affected how? If you receive Social Security benefits, those will stop. Banks won’t let you open a new account, and can freeze funds on your existing accounts. Potential employers, landlords, insurers, and service providers will think you are an identity thief. And identity thieves can really mess things up for you. Read about the dangers of paperwork premature death at Pricenomics. -via Digg