ISPLA: More DMF-Data Provider's Viewpoints
- A recent pressing issue, access to the Social Security Administration Death Master File, brought forth the viewpoints of a data information provider, Robert Scott of Crime Time and SkipSmasher that you may find of interest -- and for which ISPLA thanks him for his kind comments - Bruce Hulme, ISPLA Director of Government Affairs.
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We’ve been looking at the Death Master File changes and wanted to share what our understanding is as of the moment and what the changes will mean to private investigators and skiptracers.
WHAT IS THE DMF:
The Death Master File (DMF) also referred to as the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) is the source of the widely available death data found on both pay sites like our own Skip Smasher and on free sites like at Ancestry.com. Virtually all reported deaths eventually end up being recorded here. Some deaths in big city hospitals are electronically reported and end up in the DMF within hours; although there is a lag time before the data vendor you use updates their version of the database. The data has been freely available from the government because the person was deceased (and no longer protected by the Privacy Act) and the information including the SSN was released under FOIA. It was and is an indispensable investigative/skiptracing tool.
Approximately two years ago possible regulation of the data came onto the radar because of concerns that the SSNs of dead children were being used for identity theft; and then more recently a new stated reason was refund fraud was being perpetrated on the IRS. The restriction of the data was passed into law as part of a budget bill in 2013 with the Secretary of Commerce and NTIS in charge of implementation of the program. For the record, myself and others on the data side of things believe the new law will actually INCREASE social security and death fraud but at this point it is what it is.
DMF data for deaths occurring before March 26, 2014 is not affected. It should still be found at all of the places you found it before the new law went into effect.
For deaths occurring March 26, 2014 and later the data will be restricted for a period of three years from the date of death. For certified users who are doing things like fraud prevention, the data will still be available – assuming their data provider becomes an authorized licensee to share the data. A permissible purpose will be required to run a search, just like you currently do with GLB searches. In addition, searches run will be subject to an audit. There is a $1000 penalty per violation with a $250,000 annual cap on penalties. In addition, data providers may require a one time stand alone affidavit where you certify how you will use the limited access DMF or there could be a TOS (Terms of Service) upgrade. Three years after a death occurs, NTIS will release the death information in an “Open Access DMF” that will have no restrictions.
Due to the increased costs of compliance and data, you can expect the post-March 26, 2014 death data to become a pay search at most data providers. Possibly it will not start out as a pay product, but we believe that is where it will end up. I would like to point out that this is merely speculation on my part as even at Skip Smasher we are still looking at our options and deciding what to do. We do anticipate having the limited access DMF data for our customers.
I would like to thank Bruce Hulme of ISPLA for doing an excellent job of keeping the industry informed!
Again I would like to remind you that this is a fluid, fast breaking situation so this information should be viewed as subject to change and corrections. Of course nothing in this email should be construed as legal advice.
Thanks for listening,
Robert Scott, PI
P.S. You have my permission to share this on other investigative listserves.