Thieves access the deceased children's Social Security numbers through the Social Security Administration's "Death Master File," which records and lists information about everyone who dies in the United States, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.
The DMF, created in 1980 under the Freedom of Information Act to help financial institutions fight fraud, has been posted online by popular genealogy Web sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. The file contains the name, birthday and Social Security number for more than 90 million deceased Americans.
Officials at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which runs FamilySearch.org, said the federal government does not allow them, or others, to post the DMF without Social Security numbers.
"By contract, the records received from the Social Security Administration must be posted in their entirety," said Chief Genealogical Officer David Rencher.
The Scripps Howard News Service has identified 28 families across the country who say thieves tried to profit from their dead children by claiming them as dependents in recent years.
"It is tragic that unscrupulous individuals use the public DMF to commit tax fraud," said Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle. "But our hands are tied, however, and change will only happen if Congress acts."