The Social Security Administration (SSA) has 6.5 million Social Security Numbers for 112 year olds on file, allowing for "thousands of instances of potential identity theft" or fraud, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) warns.
Even though there are only roughly 35 people aged 112 years or older living worldwide, the SSA has millions of active SSNs for supercentenarians on its Numident, which can be used by others to receive benefits.
"In September 2013, a New York resident, believed to be the world’s oldest living man, died at age 112," the OIG said in a report released last week. "According to the Gerontology Research Group, as of October 2013, only 35 known living individuals worldwide had reached age 112."
"We matched the 6.5 million SSNs against SSA’s [Earnings Suspense File] ESF and E-Verify systems and identified thousands of instances of potential identity theft or other fraud," they said.
Nearly 70,000 of those SSNs were used to report $3.1 billion in wages between 2006 and 2011.
"One SSN appeared on 613 different suspended wage reports, and 194 additional SSNs appeared on at least 50 suspended wage reports that SSA received during this 6-year period," the OIG said. "Individuals can commit various types of fraud against the government by reporting earnings under deceased individuals’ SSNs."
As of September 2014, the SSA was still issuing benefit payments to 266 people who were using a SSN that said they were born before June 16, 1901.
"However, in only 13 cases was it likely the beneficiary was actually age 112 or older," the OIG said. "In the remaining 253 cases, discrepancies in SSA records indicated the beneficiary receiving payments was not born before June 16, 1901."
In one example, a SSN that belonged to a person who was born in 1886 and died in 1965 was used to report wages of up to $17,100 a year between 2008 and 2012. The number was available because the SSA never recorded a date of death.
The OIG flagged five other cases where "it appeared an individual was working under a deceased relative’s SSN."
The OIG found three other cases where illegal immigrants were using numbers that belonged to dead people.
"OI confirmed that illegal aliens were using deceased numberholders’ names and SSNs to work, but U.S. Attorneys in Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina declined prosecution," the report said.
The OIG initiated the audit after a man was caught using SSNs of people born in 1869 and 1893 to open bank accounts. The SSA believed that the individuals who originally held the numbers were still alive, because the agency has no recorded date of death.
The agency has had problems with issuing payments to deceased individuals in the past. The agency gave $3 million last year to 14 dead Californians whose SSNs were used by identity thieves.