The ultimate identity theft

Protect your deceased loved one’s personal information.

Scrabble tiles spell ID Theft
Scrabble tiles spell ID Theft | Photo by:

Grieving family members may have to face the possibility that their loved one’s personal information has been stolen. It’s called “ghosting” and unfortunately, postmortem identity theft is not uncommon. Thieves obtain this information in a variety of ways. Genealogy websites, friends and relatives of the deceased, hospital and funeral home employees are a few of the methods used. However, the largest resource is the Social Security Death Master File. Decedents with no recorded date of death are likely to have their social security numbers and other information stolen to access existing accounts, obtain loans and credit cards fraudulently, and to file bogus tax returns.

There are several steps to take to protect a person’s information after their death, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). First, request several copies of the death certificate and then:

Notify every government agency that had a relationship with the decedent

  • Social Security Administration
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Defense Finance Accounting Service
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Office of Personnel Management

Notify the three main credit reporting bureaus and credit card issuers

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • TransUnion

Notify insurance companies

  • Medical
  • Life
  • Auto
  • Property
  • Dental

Notify financial companies

  • Banks
  • Credit Unions
  • Stock Brokerages
  • Mutual Fund Companies
  • Annuity Issuers
  • Financial Planners
  • Loan Associations
  • Mortgage Companies
  • Other lenders

And don’t forget

  • Pension Providers
  • Trust Administrators
  • Member Organizations and Affiliations

Michigan State University Extension suggests that family members should be cautious when publishing obituaries. Avoid divulging personal information such as date and place of birth, address, or place of employment. Remember to monitor the person’s credit reports. Free credit reports can be obtained online.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), when identity theft is evident, call the companies where the fraud has occurred. Contact the credit reporting bureaus. Report the incident to the FTC and file a report with your local police department.

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