Identity Theft of the Deceased

March 13, 2013
It’s traumatic to lose a loved one. That trauma is intensified when your loved one’s identity is stolen.

Nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans’ have their identity stolen each year. How is that happening? Several ways. One way is that thieves are reading the obituaries. They look for personal information such as birthday, mother’s maiden name and home address.

The thieves move quickly using the stolen identity to purchase trips, electronics, cars, etc. while you are overcoming grief and attending to your loved one’s personal effects. The experts tell us to contact each credit reporting bureau: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Ask them to flag the account as “deceased”. This stops the chance of credit being issued.

Contact the Social Security office, banks, investments companies, insurance companies, and if applicable, the mortgage company. You will need an original copy of the death certificate for each of the entities you contact. They should mark the account as closed due to death of the account holder. Of course, if there are joint accounts, just remove the name of the deceased.

Don’t forget to cancel the deceased’s driver’s license. You don’t want a duplicate floating around in the hands of thieves.

The second way for fraudsters to get the social security number of the deceased is by chance. They make up social security numbers and it just happens to match the number of someone who died. Plus, unfortunately Uncle Sam has made Social Security numbers available in the Death Master File which is widely available on the Internet.

This is the time of year of tax returns. A fraudulent tax return using the deceased person’s social security number works great for a con artist to make money via refunds.

The third way a deceased identity is stolen is by a family member. Most of us can’t imagine a family member doing such a thing. Just know it does happen in some families.

I know you are thinking --- really, I have to think about identity theft when I am grieving? Yes, you do.