While the internet has only made identity theft easier for criminals in recent years, the web can also prove helpful in busting those posing as someone else. To wit: The family of a boy who died in 1972 at two months old recently found a man accused of posing as the deceased child while researching their family tree online.
Federal prosecutors have charged a 44-year-old Pennsylvania man with one count of Social Security Fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, claiming he obtained a birth certificate for the boy and used it to apply for a Social Security Number in his name.
Officials say he’s been living under the deceased victim’s identity since mid-1996. The Associated Press reports that in his time using the deceased child’s name, the man lived in Pennsylvania as well as Michigan and Texas, where he applied for jobs, got driver’s licenses, and was even married and divorced.
Late last year, the boy’s aunt searched his name on Ancestry.com, and it returned results that led to public records that seemed to indicate he was alive. She told the deceased child’s mother, who did some more research on her own and uncovered the alleged identity theft.
She filed a complaint with the Social Security Administration, and an investigator from the agency’s Office of Inspector General took over the case in January.
The suspect’s public defender told the AP that he was “a very young man when this matter first arose, and he deeply regrets the poor judgment he exercised back then,” as well as the distress he caused the child’s family.
If convicted, he will face “a substantial period of incarceration,” prosecutors say, as well as a three-year period of supervised release, a fine of up to $500,000, and a special assessment.