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Family History Research Revealed Identity Theft



Genealogists and family historians typically use Ancestry.com in order to learn more about their relatives and ancestors. The popular genealogy website has many collections of a variety of records that hold important personal information. One Ancestry.com user discovered a case of identity theft while using Ancestry.com.

Nathan Laskoski died in December of 1972. He was two months old. He was buried in a Texas cemetery. Nathan’s mother never applied for a Social Security card for her son.

In late 2016, Nathan’s aunt was using Ancestry.com to track down information for her family tree. To her surprise, she found Nathan Laskoski on Ancestry.com. The website listed him as alive, which was, of course, impossible. (A green leaf icon on Ancestry.com indicates that a person is alive.)

Nathan’s aunt could see some of the information that Ancestry.com had about Nathan Laskowski. It said he had been married twice, had lived in multiple states (including Mississippi and Tennessee) and was issued a Social Security number in Texas in 1996.

Nathan’s aunt let Nathan’s mother know about what she found. Nathan’s mother filed an identity theft complaint with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security’s Office of Inspector General started working on the case in January of 2017.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of Jon Vincent, who was 44 years old. He was arrested in Lansdale, near Pennsylvania (but had also lived near Pittsburg and York, Pennsylvania, since 2003). Vincent obtained a Social Security card in Nathan Laskoski’s name in 1996. Jon Vincent had been working under Nathan Laskoski’s name, and had earned income every year since 1996.

The Social Security fraud charges carries up to five years in prison upon conviction. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a penalty of two years in prison (consecutive to any sentence imposed for the fraud count.) At the time this story made the newspapers, (in April of 2017) Jon Vincent had been put in jail awaiting his arraignment in May of 2017.

What can genealogists learn from this? The first thing to learn is that you shouldn’t answer questions asked by random strangers that call your home. Nathan’s mother recalled a strange telephone call that she received in 1996, in which someone asked her questions about her son – including his Social Security number.

The second thing to learn is that it is a good idea to pay attention to the information you see on Ancestry.com. If your deceased relative appears on Ancestry.com as though he or she is alive – it might be more than a glitch or typo. It could mean someone stole your relative’s identity and/or his or Social Security number.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* Copy of Social Security Application

* Social Security Application with Details

* Social Security Death Index

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