|With our lives
so documented in a digital world today, the deceased are even easier victims
of identity theft than ever. It can be extremely distressing to discover
that your loved one’s identity has been stolen following their death.
Not only can it be very emotionally tormenting, the financial implications
to the good-standing of the deceased (& deceased’s surviving family)
can be catastrophic. It can be so frustrating for family to witness
the good name and credit of a loved one destroyed with little regard.
Americans are used every year
to illegally apply for credit on goods and services.
The dead have always been
vulnerable to identity theft, but this has become more of an issue as we
have moved into a digital age, with so much of our personal data stored
on electronic devices and floating around in the ‘ether’ of the Internet.
Many years ago fraud criminals would have to study death notices and obituary
listings in newspapers or hang around cemeteries. Today much of our
personal data is entered into electronic databases, and despite the changes
in data protection and privacy laws, we are still vulnerable to having
our identity cloned or stolen. Some people choose to disclose far
more personal data then they should on public sites. A recent survey
from ID Analytics revealed that the details of 2.5 million
The funeral industry has
tried to embrace the digital culture by offering us online obituaries and
memorials, even going so far today as posting these on Facebook and Twitter.
This just makes it all the easier for the criminal element to identify
targets. Once a deceased target has been identified, thieves will
dig deeper to get details from the death certificate and Social Security
Death Index File. Remember that these are public records and certified
copies can be requested online now.
Statistics on identity theft
also show that family members do steal and assume an identity – made all
the easier as they already have access to personal data.
The tough economic times
we are in has also contributed to an increase in crimes of fraud.
What steps can you
take to protect your loved one’s identity?
There are a number steps
you can take to help prevent identity theft following a death. The
surviving family, or the executor of the deceased’s estate, will generally
be responsible for this.
Contact details for the
three credit agencies are:
Make sure you obtain additional
certified copies of the death certificate, this way you can begin notifying
multiple organizations/authorities at once.
Notify the three national credit
reporting agencies & request that a “Deceased Alert” be placed on the
Request a copy of the deceased’s
credit report in order that you can determine exactly what credit accounts
remain open at the time of death. The credit report will also list
the addresses of any creditors.
Office of Consumer Affairs
P O Box 105169
Atlanta, GA 30348
P O Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P O Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
You will need the deceased’s
personal data to request a copy of the credit report. You will also
be required to provide data to prove your identity and your relationship
to the deceased.
Make a checklist of
organizations/institutions to notify
As soon as possible after
the death has occurred you should start notifying all the organizations,
institutions and authorities. This can be a mammoth task, it may
be made easier if the deceased had put
their affairs in order, and you may need to enlist some help with this.
You will need to notify in writing or by phone:
You will need to confirm which
accounts are being transferred to surviving family and which are being
closed. Any accounts that are to be closed, you should request that
a formal statement be added to the record stating, “Account closed. Holder
Credit Card companies
Loan and Lien holders
You will also need to notify
as quickly as possible:
Due to the rising issue of identity
theft, and the fact that many bereaved just do not want to deal with the
process of notifying so many agencies, there are companies that undertake
this for you. The fees for such a service can vary. Some firms
charge a monthly or annual fee for identity protection services and other
firms that particularly target supporting the identity protection of the
deceased will charge a one-off fixed fee. For example Dignity Shield
charges $500.00 to secure your loved one’s identity upon death.
Social Security Administration
Insurance companies – life,
health, house, auto etc
Department of Motor Vehicles
Any professional license institutions
Memberships of any clubs
If a veteran – the Veteran’s
If an immigrant – the US Immigration
It is recommended that you
continue to monitor any use of the deceased’s identity for some time after
death. An Identity Protection service will do this for you.
You can also check the website www.myidscore.com to assess the risk status
of an identity.