Americans are getting older, but not this old: Social Security records show that 6.5 million people in the US have reached the ripe old age of 112. Common sense suggests otherwise—as of last fall, there were only 42 people known to be that old in the entire world. But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency's inspector general. Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, or claim fraudulent tax refunds.
"That is a real problem," says Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "When you have a fake Social Security number, that's what allows you to fraudulently do all kinds things, claim things like the earned income tax credit or other tax benefits." Johnson is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which plans a hearing Monday on problems with death records maintained by the Social Security Administration. The agency said it is working to improve the accuracy of its death records, but one SSA official said it would be costly and time-consuming to update 6.5 million files that were generated decades ago, when the agency used paper records. (Read more Social Security stories.)