Identities of Nearly 2.5 Million Deceased Americans Misused Each Year

New Study from ID Analytics’ ID:A Labs is First to Reveal Fraudsters Using Personal Information of the Deceased to Apply for Credit Products and Services

SAN DIEGO, CA –The identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans are used improperly to apply for credit products and services each year, according to a new study released today from ID Analytics’ ID:A Labs. This is the first study to examine the extent of fraudsters improperly using a deceased person’s identity to establish credit accounts.

The study compared the names, dates of birth (DOB) and Social Security numbers (SSNs) on 100 million applications during the first three months of 2011 to data in the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) to find which applications used personally identifiable information (PII) associated with deceased individuals.

The study found:

  • Identity Theft of the Dead – Nearly 800,000 deceased Americans’ identities are intentionally targeted for misuse on applications for credit products and cell phone services by fraudsters each year.
  • Inadvertently Misusing SSNs of the Deceased – In approximately 1.6 million applications annually, an identity manipulator inadvertently used the SSN of a deceased person.
  • Identity Theft of the Dying – Several hundred thousand potential misuses of dying people’s identities each year.

“This study brings to light a significant problem as we see fraudsters intentionally using identities of the deceased at the rate of more than 2,000 per day,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer, ID Analytics. “While this is clearly a problem for businesses, surviving family members can also be the victims of this identity fraud as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones. It’s important for people to monitor their deceased family member’s identities for at least one year and a good way is with identity theft protection services.”

Dr. Coggeshall will speak about these findings today at 10:20 a.m. at the ID360 conference hosted by the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin.

Understanding the Methodology

To conduct the study, ID:A Labs leveraged data within ID Analytics’ ID Network®, the nation’s only real time cross-industry compilation of identity information that examines the flow of applications for credit cards, cell phones, retail and other financial services credit products and services.

When the study projects the 100 million applications examined to the entire annual volume of applications submitted for credit products and services in the U.S., it estimates that nearly 6.8 million applications have at least a partial match to the DMF. Many of these—roughly 2.4 million—are simply SSN typos.

The study also found that approximately 1.6 million applications are instances of a fraudster using a fabricated SSN that unintentionally matches the SSN of a deceased person. Finally, the study uncovered approximately 800,000 instances per year where a deceased person’s identity is deliberately targeted for misuse, as well as several hundred thousand cases where a dying person’s identity is potentially being misused.

About ID:A Labs
ID:A Labs reveals important trends in consumer behavior by examining identity use to help organizations better manage both the risk and opportunity of an individual consumer. ID:A Labs is a multidisciplinary group of mathematicians, computer scientists, economists, financial experts, cognitive scientists and advisors from ID Analytics and other respected institutions.

ID:A Labs conducts research and analysis in the areas of identity fraud, credit risk, marketing and segmentation, authentication and identity proofing. The Labs leverages the ID Network®, the nation’s first network of cross-industry consumer behavioral data. Backed by patented technology, world-class analytics and the ID Network, ID:A Labs researches, analyzes and reports on developments in consumer behavior, identity- and credit-related issues, the regulatory landscape and innovations in analytics around modeling and machine learning.

About ID Analytics
ID Analytics is a leader in consumer risk management with patented analytics, proven expertise, and real-time insight into consumer behavior. By combining proprietary data from the ID Network®—one of the nation’s largest networks of cross-industry behavioral data—with advanced science, ID Analytics provides in-depth visibility into identity risk and creditworthiness. Every day, many of the largest U.S. companies and critical government agencies rely on ID Analytics to make risk-based decisions that enhance revenue, reduce fraud, drive cost savings, and protect consumers. Please visit us on the web at

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