ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) --- A family whose four-year-old daughter died in January is finding this week that the theft of her social security number by identity thieves is not a rarity.
When Jonathan and Neely Agin filed a tax return extension in order to gather the medical bills of their daughter Alexis, identity thieves were able to learn the little girl's social security number, and then use it to claim her as a dependent deduction on their tax forms.
When Jonathan and Neely filed their return last week, it was rejected by the IRS which said someone else had already claimed their little girl as a deduction, less than 10 months after she died of brain cancer in January.
The parents decided to warn the parents of other children who have died of cancer and were surprised at what happened after a posting last Thursday.
"Since that time, 11 families, total, have come forward to let us know their childrens' Social Security numbers have been used in various IRS filings," Jonathan Agin told 9News Now.
Although the Agins don't know how identity thieves were able to steal Alexis' Social Security number, the Social Security numbers of 83 million Americans who have died are available on the websites of genealogy websites that subscribe to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File, which is sold to those websites by the Commerce Department's National Information Service at fees in the thousands of dollars.
In a matter of seconds on Monday evening, 9News Now staffers were able to find online the Social Security numbers of former President Ronald Reagan and entertainer Michael Jackson by accessing the Death Master File information on a family search website.
"It seems to me it's perpetuating identity theft and costing the government more money. One agency is publishing them while another agency has to prosecute the people who are using them," said Jonathan Agin, who has contacted his congressman to determine whether the practice can be changed.
The Agins work with a foundation to raise funds to fight the aggressive brain cancer that killed Alexis and are planning a 5K walk and run in Arlington on November 6th.