Identity Theft

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Scam Alert! Protect the Deceased from Identity Theft.

Identity theft

Protect your loved one’s identity.

The photo on this original article on identity theft depicts a burglar stealing a headstone with a thumbprint of the deceased etched into the headstone.

It’s a new low in identity theft. Latest statistics reveal that nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans have their identity stolen each year. Thieves use the information to open credit cards, apply for loans, get cell phones or other services—and even sell the information to those who want to enter our country or change their own bad history. At one time Michael and I managed a manufactured home park. Part of our job was to run credit checks on incoming applicants. One applicant had purchased a social security number that was being used by 14 other people. This showed up on his background check.

Ghosting: Crooks make up a Social Security number that happens to match that of someone who has died. The process is called ‘ghosting’. Apparently it takes six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus and the Social Security Administration to receive, share or register death records. During this time ghost time, unscrupulous thieves rack up charges. Since the dead do not monitor their credit. . .

What you can do as the survivor to prevent identity theft after you’re gone:

  1. For the obituary, list the age of the deceased but do not list the birth date, mother’s maiden name or other personal identifiers.
  2. Keep in mind that an address listed in the obituary opens up the possibility of home burglary during the funeral time. (How low can one go?)
  3. Use certified mail with ‘return receipt requested’ and send a copy of the death certificate to each credit-reporting bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) asking them to put a ‘deceased alert’ on the credit report.
  4. Mail death certificates to banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, credit card agencies and mortgage companies where the deceased held accounts with the works ‘Closed: Account Holder is Deceased’ as the reason. For joint accounts remove the deceased’s name.
  5. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license.
  6. After a few weeks, check the credit report of the person at  to make sure there is no suspicious activity. Several months later, follow up with another request to a different credit-reporting agency.
  7. Report the death to Social Security by calling (800) 772-1213.

I thought this was excellent advice. I’m putting a copy of the article in my Wills and Eulogy file. With medical identity theft and IRS identity theft happening you may also want to notify those places and go online to see what you can do to prevent old emails from being used to spam people as well. Nobody wants the surviving loved ones who may be in shock for weeks to have to remember all this stuff! You may also find an opportunity to share the information with friends and family.

Reference: AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities Dead Ringers by Sid Kirchheimer March 2013 page 26

Helpful Links and References for Identity Theft: