Death Doesn’t Mean the End of Identity Theft
Believe it or not, but identity theft against the deceased is a real danger. Unfortunately, identity theft is often the last thing on a grieving person’s mind – and what’s exactly what identity thieves hope for when they target a deceased person’s identity. In the midst of the pain of losing a loved one and sorting out final arrangements, family members aren’t often on the lookout for identity fraud. Yet, this continues to be a real issue for many Americans.
Decreased identity theft (often called “ghosting”) is lucrative enough that almost 2.5 million deceased Americans fall victim to this crime each year. Ghosters use the stolen identities of people who have died to fraudulently obtain credit cards, loans, cell phones, driver’s licenses, or to collect tax returns.
These thieves often tend to scan the obituary looking for suspects. They will start searching for the corresponding Social Security number or gather information about them from the internet. Armed with this surplus of personal information, they aim to use it to make money on the identity before the family realizes what is being done.
Prevent identity theft after death with these tips:
- Before posting an obituary, report the death to the Social Security administration, send copies of the death certificate to the 3 major credit bureaus, and contact the DMV to let them know.
- Avoid putting any personal details in the obituary, such as their date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or address.
- Mail copies of the death certificate to financial institutions, medical benefit providers, and insurers. Ask them for a letter in return confirming that the account is closed.
- Remove the deceased person’s name from any joint accounts.
- Keep an eye on incoming mail and make sure expected checks and bills are showing up.
- Check their credit report for suspicious activity a few weeks after their death.
- Dispose of their papers securely and erase personal information on electronic devices before donating or selling them.
- Keep ID and passports secure.
It’s wise to prepare for the inevitable. Leave your loved ones a complete list of information on accounts, government benefits, etc. – in a safe place, of course. With this information in hand, they can act quickly to protect the assets of your estate and any surviving partner.
At Hoffman Brown Company, we’re always on the lookout for ways to stay safe. Contact us if you have any concerns or questions. We can help you secure the right insurance for your needs.