Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dead Customers--Warning to Government List Managers

I stumbled on this while reading an FSA notice:
"The Death Master File Report identifies customers who were updated as deceased in Business Partner during the initial migration. This was a one -time process run from the Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and approximately 1.7 million customers were updated as deceased. County Offices will not receive work list items for customers on this list as all customers were updated with a date of death and the death was automatically confirmed."
What it says is FSA's master name and address file, probably about 6-8 million names, wasn't being maintained for deaths, so when FSA matched the file against SSA's records, 1.7 records fell out.   I suspect this is a hazard for all lists maintained by big organizations: there's no immediate apparent cost to keeping a record on file and there's an obvious cost removing it.  It takes time to remove a record or flag it as dead, and there's always the chance of error.  So it's easier, cheaper, and safer not to touch the file.

Problem is, leaving the dead on file leads to mistakes, most notoriously payments to dead farmers, and potential security problems.  How many thrillers have you read where someone establishes a fake identity using the name/ID of a dead person?

I believe, back in the old days before System/36, the KCMO mainframe files were routinely matched against SSA death files.  But when we went to the 36, because that process was done once a year or so, it fell through the cracks.  As we used to say in the Army: sorry bout that.

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