back to article Big Data shocker: Over 6 million Americans have reached the age of 112

In an illustration of what can happen when you use Big Data uncritically, it has emerged that no less than 6.5 million living Americans have reached the ripe old age of 112. Even more amazingly, it appears that just 13 of the super-silver legions are claiming benefits - and tens of thousands of them appear to be holding down …

  1. tfewster

    Let me guess

    The default if a birth date isn't entered is 1/1/1900. And the system that allows this was introduced in 2012?

    1. JeffyPoooh

      SSA has a new policy to address this issue

      All newly-dead people will be required to fill out a form.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SSA has a new policy to address this issue

        The mess-up has obviously occurred in the SSA's failure to collect and administer death records for millions of people.

        Which is why millions of dead people still vote in Chicago.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let me guess

      Actually, no. This was the subject of the most recent 60 Minutes, and the problem is the "Death Master File". SS relies on someone telling them a person has died, and is getting information from all sorts of sources, much of it still paper-based since no one invests much in improving this sort of process.

      A lot of deaths aren't reported, so they stay on the SS system. If there are six million people over 112, I would not be surprised if a few are older than 150 :)

    3. Ian Michael Gumby

      Nope... guess again... Re: Let me guess

      The truth is that unless they have proof that you're dead, they can't list you as dead.

      It all started with this cat... and this box... ;-)

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Nope... guess again... Let me guess

        And there's the unspoken about issue that's been raised in the past. Illegal immigrants use fake SS numbers (usually good numbers that have compromised). Since the illegals won't file their taxes, the government rakes in millions each year that would, if the ID's were real, be paid back in refunds.

        The reason for not automatically deleting is sound although I've come across one person who SS said was dead...with a straight face... as they sat across the desk from the SS person.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nope... guess again... Let me guess

          That was the other angle of that story. Once you are declared dead in error, even once you convince the SSA that you are alive, so many other institutions rely on their list and have declared you dead in their records, you have problems forever. One woman got a letter from the SSA every month (so it was current) and kept it with her always, to avoid issues ranging from arrest for identity theft to credit issues and so forth that her premature death caused her in the past.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    Nuff Said.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    That's OK

    They are not getting draft summons (as a lot of them were born in the day and age of draft).

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: That's OK


      They are not getting draft summons (as a lot of them were born in the day and age of draft).


      Should someone tell him to watch the movie Stripes? There hasn't been a draft since the end of Viet Nam.

  4. Kanhef

    A bit late to the party

    Other news outlets were reporting on this back on March 10.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A privacy officer discusses a drawback to collecting personal information online

    "We have a suspicious amount of 98-year-old Albanian millionaire grandmothers with Hotmail addresses who own 200-plus computers and head up a tech firm who are interested in reading our newspaper."

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Am I to understand that as long as the right number is given the SSA use it without question, when they could validate the record if it hasn't been recently validated and record the date of validation?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Yes, the ultimate in hubris. They issued the number so therefore it must be valid as it's against the law to use a number other than your own. And as everyone knows... all citizens and non-citizens follow the laws.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A database full of errors, well I never !

    1. Jedit

      "A database full of errors, well I never !"

      It is important in data collection to keep everything correctly filed. The US government are merely following proper data management procedures by putting all their mistakes in a single database.

      1. Bob Dole (tm)

        Re: "A database full of errors, well I never !"

        >>It is important in data collection to keep everything correctly filed. The US government are merely following proper data management procedures by putting all their mistakes in a single database.

        I don't think there's a database available that can hold all of that.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      Sorry Nope!

      "A database full of errors, well I never !"

      That's the thing.

      The database isn't full of errors.

      The database contains a list of over 6 Million SS numbers where there is no record of death of the individual provided to the State.

      The data is correct.

  8. Little Mouse

    Or, just *maybe*

    ...they are still alive.

    Has anyone actually checked?

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Re: Or, just *maybe*

      "One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach; all the damn vampires"

      1. tony2heads

        Re: Or, just *maybe*

        Like Tom Petty says

        "All the vampires walkin' through the valley

        Move west down Ventura boulevard"

    2. Preston Munchensonton

      Re: Or, just *maybe*

      "Has anyone actually checked?"

      In fact, this is the root of the problem. These 6 million records do not contain any confirmation of death, leading to the rampant identify theft necessary to fuel the immigration problem in the US.

      Queue the Republican conspiracy that Obama erased the death info on purpose to help illegals, in 3, 2, 1....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or, just *maybe*

        lol.. the conspiracy theorists are way ahead of you. That's exactly how I first saw this story, days before The Register picked it up.

    3. Hollerith 1

      Re: Or, just *maybe*

      Yes, they are alive and standing in front of me in the shopping queue, each with six items at a five-items-or-less till.

  9. Lee D

    I know someone who went to work in the USA.

    They walked into first place to offer them a job.

    A year later, they were asked for their SSN. They did not have one. In fact, their official US ID clearly stated "Illegal Immigrant" (which is an official status in the US). Nobody ever cared, even the police officers who nearly arrested them several times over the years (for being a pillock, mostly, nothing dangerous or causing harm, distress or inconvenience to others). They made up an SSN, put it on the form and it was NEVER queried.

    Years later, they left the country and were asked not to return for a year. Still, the SSN was valid when they went back.

    SSN is the most stupid, pointless waste of time I've ever seen and consists of precisely ZERO checks against it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a Brit who was lived and worked (legally) in the US for over 25 years - I have to say that Lee's friend was embellishing his story a little - were there some beers involved, perhaps?

      In the past you could walk into a job without an SSN with little trouble, that has been much tougher in the last 10-15 years, although clearly plenty of people still manage it.

      There is not, and never has been, an ID or document that stated a person was an "illegal immigrant" - he or she made that part up. If you came in as a visitor, the stapled piece of paper in your passport said you were not allowed to work or stay beyond the term - that's the closest. It's actually debatable whether there is even such a thing as Illegal immigrant since immigration law is civil rather than criminal.

      You are correct that SSN is over-used, poorly checked, and problematic. When I came here as a student I had to have a social security number as they used it as a unique key for "student ID number". I went to the office, filled in the forms truthfully and accurately (stating that I was a temporary resident on a student visa) and they gave me a number. 6 years later when I applied for a green card I was told they had given me a resident not an immigrant number and it caused issues. In the end they determined it was the office's mistake and it is more difficult to change than leave in place - since the number is used as an identifier in almost every government and private system. So big data in the US government thinks I was born in Boulder Colorado yet I am a resident alien.

      Additionally, can we focus on the fact that the US government admits it gets $3 Billion over 5 years from people who will never be able to collect on those Social security benefits. I don't remember that coming up in the immigration debates

      1. Lee D

        I've seen the California driving licence. "Federal Limits Apply" is (not exactly, but is well known as) the code for "Illegal Immigrant" there. In fact, some of the more unscrupulous work party collection mobs will check the ID for that line to make sure you are an illegal before they pick you up...

        This guy did it 5 years ago, I didn't know him 15 years ago. However, it may have been longer than a year, I did just guess at that, but he went around the world for years anyway before going back. The story may be exaggerated but is not "untrue" - the guy was variously arrested for going up the down escalators and down the up escalators, and "looking at the white lines in the middle of the road", etc. so it's not prima facie evidence.

    2. lowwall

      Bollocks. "Illegal Immigrant" is not an official status. And there is no such thing as an "official US ID" other than a US passport.

      I imagine what he was talking about was that it is possible (and even required) for non-citizens and permanent residents to get a SSN or Taxpayer ID number for various tax purposes. These will include a statement like "Not valid for employment" or "Valid for work only with DHS authorization" (the exact wording changes occasionally).

      This is not to say that employers will never hire someone without the proper papers, but it's become much less likely, especially for white collar work and any corp large enough to have an HR department as the DHS has been steadily upping the pressure through workplace audits over the last decade.

      1. Rob 5

        You chaps have addressed the holes in that story pretty comprehensively. AFAICT, the only one remaining is that there's no such thing as a one-year ban. IIRC it's 3 years, 10 (ish), or life.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There can be only one.....

    The explanation is all too obvious. These immensely old, yet still fit people are 'gathering' together in the united states, ready to fight to the death for the mythical 'prize'. I'm going to assume that a surprising amount of these people are either scottish with a odd french accent, or spanish with a totally blatant scottish accent....

    1. Lee D

      Re: There can be only one.....

      For sure, that was the best standalone movie.

      Along with The Matrix, if only they'd made a sequel.

  11. Tom 35

    "The mess-up has obviously occurred in the SSA's failure to collect and administer death records for millions of people."

    Are they sure? Maybe the DB is full of people who never existed, or duplicate records. It's only the obviously wrong ones they are seeing now.

  12. Dan Paul

    You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist

    to know that the elderly in the US (and elsewhere) are the favorite victims of Identity Thieves.

    My girfriends 84 year old mother gets calls almost every day trying to phish her credentials.

    Most of those calls are from Latino, Asian or Eastern European sounding persons so it would appear that Identity Thieves and Illegal Immigrants may be working together.

    If there was ever a comprehensive audit of the US Social Security system against Death Certificates, we would find a significant number of unqualified "zombie" recipients still getting benefits well after death. I'm willing to bet that the majority are people with no papers, followed by relatives of the deceased. Some of those will have been collecting benefits for years.

  13. beanbasher

    And this is why...

    Universal credit will grind to a halt. Its easy to deal with mainstream items but the outliers will always mess things up. Those paper records that know one got round to fixing, hoping thay would just disappear comes round and bites you on the arse. Once HM gov has 99.9% of everyone on UC they will hit a brick wall trying to squeeze shoehorn and fudge thier way to the finish line. The dream of an all digital solution will come off the rails and be hidden behind a patchwork of work arounds.

  14. bep

    Day of the Jackal etc

    Didn't the geezer in 'Day of the Jackal' get a British passport this way? Went to a church, found a dead'un of appropriate 'age' in the graveyard, nicked the record from the church's birth register, applied for and got a birth certificate and away he went. I believe they have tightened up on this in the UK.

    1. Rob 5

      Re: Day of the Jackal etc

      Yep. It's called "Ghosting" in the UK and "Tombstoning" in the USA.

      Though the US also has a bizarre version, where you get deadbeat parents using their living kids SSNs to run up massive debts.

  15. Oldfogey

    Me too

    There have been suggestions that some of this junk data couldbe cleaned up by comparing with other records.

    Unfortunately, every time a site asks me for my dateof birth, without a VERY good reason, I enter 1/1/1900.

    Never yet had it rejected.

    Similarly with giving the organisations headquarters asmy own address and phone no.

  16. Howard Hanek


    How do we reconcile this with declining rocking chair sales? No wonder Supernatural is such a long running show.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who says the US Healthcare system sucks? TAKE THAT WORLD! WE'RE #1. How many 112 year olds do you have?

    USA! USA! USA!

  18. Grumpy Fellow
    Thumb Up

    Just wait

    Until 2038 when the current 112 year olds discover a 32 bit fountain of youth and we kick off another Baby Boom!

  19. johnwerneken

    Want in THAT club lol

    Only 61 Members lol

  20. Stefan 6

    Hirano Sue seems to have died on 25th January this year ..

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