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How to Access Social Security Death Records

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Where life was once simple, it is now complex.  It is an unfortunate condition of our world in that some people will take every advantage, legal and illegal, to make their lives easier and better at the cost of destroying or using someone else’s life to do so.  It has become an everyday, common situation where everyone must take extraordinary steps to keep one’s self, family, and work safe.  People will use a dead person’s social security number to gain government benefits or more if possible.  Each individual needs to be aware of the threat and at times take necessary precautions or legal actions.  One of the ways to do this is to check if a social security number used is real or a dead person’s number.  Apparently the Social Security Administration does not or cannot correlate the fact that a dead person’s number is being used, even if the number is queried.

Searching for a death record in the Social Security Administration database (SSDMF) is not free.  Most queries are by entities that want to insure that a social security number being used is not being used fraudulently, belonging to a person who has deceased.  As of October 15, 2012, the prices, or subscriptions for queries are as follows:

            1 query            $10      $10 per query

            5 queries          $40      $8 per query

            25 queries        $150    $6 per query

            50 queries        $200    $4 per query

            100 queries      $300    $3 per query

While there are other databases available online that one can search and possibly pay less, the Social Security Administration (SSA) only endorses its own database as being correct and up to date. As with any search the more information one has to provide, the better and more precise will the search be.  Social security number with full name including middle initial, full address, even residential phone number will all help in finding and confirming the stored information.  As with any search of this type, confirm as much of the returned info against others sources, hopefully not sources that are online.  One example would be if the user of the number were of one race and the info from the database returns the fact that the stated ethnic background of the filer was of a definite other race, it would potentially lead to other concerns and additional questions.

One drawback of this “Death Master” file is that it can only tell an inquirer that a person with a specific social security number is listed as dead in this master file.  If there is no record of the person sought it is not a specific indication that the person being sought is actually alive.  At that point some correlation of information from a number of different databases would be necessary to try and draw a definitive conclusion.  If one person is using another’s identity and does not use credit cards or bank accounts or use one’s social security number, it is almost impossible to track such a person in this day and age of electronics.  Information is only as good as the data available.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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