Deceased Riverside Child’s Identity Stolen, Falsely Claimed On Taxes

RIVERSIDE, N.J. (CBS) — A grieving family is left to dispute with the IRS after learning someone stole their dead child’s identity.

Equally disturbing is how easily the tax cheater got the information.

Aimee and Everett Dunlap of Riverside, New Jersey told Eyewitness News they are still grieving the loss of their son. But they say their anguish turned to anger when they were dealt with another blow — someone had stolen Everett Jr.’s identity.

“There are some real crooked people out there,” Everett Dunlap said.

We met Everett Jr. in October 2009. Battling brain cancer for 10 years, with his parents in a financial bind, Everett had every reason to ask for a helping hand. But at the time, he was selling energy drinks to raise money to help other children with cancer. He died last January. He was only 17.

Aimee Dunlap said, “Now I have to prove that he’s my child? That’s not right.”

It was when the Dunlaps filed their 2010 taxes and claimed Everett as a dependent that they learned someone had already claimed their son’s social security number.

“What do you mean someone’s claimed my son? How’s that possible?” Everett Dunlap said.

Eyewitness News found that it was rather simple. The social security number of a deceased person can be obtained legally through the government, but we also found the same information on some free commercial websites.

In an e-mail, an official with the Social Security Administration explained that by law, when someone dies, their social security number becomes public record.

Anna Sachs, a partner at Savran Benson LLP, a CPA firm explained, “It really is identity theft, essentially.”

In fact, in the last year, families from at least six states reported that a stranger claimed their dead child as a dependent.

Sachs said, “The only possible thing you can try to do is file as early as possible so that no one else has a chance to claim your child.”

Aimee Dunlap added, “Parents shouldn’t have to go through this. It’s like losing the child all over again.”

As it stands now, no one’s information can be removed for any reason. The affected families are trying to change that law. The Dunlaps contacted Congressman Jon Runyan, whose office informed Eyewitness News, the Congressman will do what he can to bring the Dunlaps some closure.

If you’d like more information about identity theft, check out the following links from the IRS and the FTC:,,id=186436,00.html

Also here’s some additional background information Eyewitness News obtained from the Social Security Administration on the “public record” of deceased persons:

* SSA sells the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

* It was created in 1980 because of a lawsuit filed in 1978 by Ronald Perholtz in Federal District court.

* SSA has never provided online access to the information. Many companies have created and provide online access to the information.

* Depending on the site, they offer searches free or for a fee.

* These are all commercial web sites and SSA’s policy generally prohibits providing a link to or recommending a commercial web site as SSA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any commercial products or services.

* SSA cannot vouch that the information offered by these commercial sites is up-to-date.

Watch The Video …

Reported by Elizabeth Hur, CBS 3

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One Comment

  1. Gale D says:

    This same thing just happened to my husband and I in regards to our deceased little boy – we e-filed and it was rejected as someone had already claimed him on their taxes. This just happened today. I’m not sure where to go from here. I plan on writing our congressman in IL but from there where do I go for help????

    1. Nancy Figat says:

      My former spouse’s Mother worked for the IRS.Recently, I found that my returns were being replaced by substituted returns, submitted bt the IRS show no income.

  2. anon513 says:

    Anyone who would do this and put grieving people through this are gutless and heartless. If only people would put themselves in other peoples’ places BEFORE they say or do things, this world just might be a better place. My Prayers go out to the family for God to give them strength through this as well.

  3. Wanda H. says:

    Does the person who claimed this family’s son deceased social security number face any criminal charges?

    1. Mike says:

      The names of people stealing these identities to cheat on their taxes should be reported. They also should face severe criminal charges.

  4. Michele D says:

    Thank you Patti M. It’s unfair that victims of this type of identity theft should have to prove that the deceased is their child. It’s ridiculous that Social Security info is public record after death. The government gives out this information? So much for protection, but I guess that only applies to them. These parents are suffering; I’d like to know if the person who stole the identity is suffering as well. My prayers go out to this family. I hope the laws change on this matter.

  5. Anon says:

    So, how many people are claiming dead kids as dependents on their taxes and getting away with it? Scoop!

  6. Michele D says:

    Nice spelling…wish they had “report a typo” on their website

    1. Patti M. says:

      I did call the news desk to let them know. The polite young man was going to let someone in the web group know. It’s just such a heartbreaking story that even a simple typo could add to this families pain. My heart and prayers go out to them.

  7. Ann Pianetta says:

    I believe the correct spelling is “deceased” not “diseased.” Somebody dropped the ball in the spell check department.

    1. Patti M. says:

      I’m glad you commented on this. I was taken aback with the term ‘diseased child’.

    2. grammer queen says:

      Thanks for your valuable input on the correct spelling. That’s really important in the scheme of things here. I bet it is not the first time you have done this. You are so smart! I feel sorry for your husband or boyfriend. Everyone should appluad you for clearing this up for us all.

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