HIGHLAND (CBSLA) — A World War II veteran may have been victimized a second time after his Social Security number was posted on Twitter by the police agency trying to track down his family in order to return his stolen property.
William E. Byrd was a World War II veteran who died in 1981 at the age of 67, but several pieces of his property were found Sunday in the car of an AB109 felon, 34-year-old David Jeffrey Harvard. Among the pieces of property were several antique rifles, shotguns, and ammunition, including a WWI German 37mm live cannon shell; military memorabilia including original photos of war scenes and bodies at Auschwitz; and the victim’s and families’ birth and death certificates and social security cards.
A photo of the personal documents, including a photo of a Social Security card clearly displaying the number, led to a testy exchange on Twitter between San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Maggie Finneran and a Twitter user.
“You guys seriously put the guys social security number and ID on social media. I can’t fathom the intensity of how stupid that is,” user bakerXderek wrote in reply to Finneran’s tweet that included the images.
In reply, Finneran said, “Thanks for such keen, albeit opportunistic observations. The victim has been dead almost 40 years, so identity theft is not an issue.”
However, according to California’s Office of the Attorney General, identity theft can, in fact, strike even after death. Social Security numbers should be reported to credit bureaus so they can be flagged with a “deceased” notation, but an ID thief can still wreak havoc for family members, merchants and banks with a dead person’s social security number. And for a veteran like Byrd, a death pension may still be paid out to any unmarried surviving spouse and unmarried children.
Byrd’s son has since been located, and Finneran says they are trying to meet with him tonight to return the property to him.