Avoiding Identity Theft

As with other incidences of identity theft, occurrences of postmortem identity theft is increasing

Thieves use the identities of the deceased to apply for credit cards, loans, and utility services, and to file tax returns and obtain refunds.  They accomplish the foregoing by obtaining information on a deceased from genealogy websites, and from accomplices working in hospitals and funeral homes.

Unfortunately, one of the best known sources of information is the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File”, which hopefully given the recent exposure of the corrupt use of that file, the Administration will employ more restrictive access to this site.

Steps may be taken to prevent the use of a loved one’s identity for improper purposes. The first immediate step to take upon the death of a loved one is to send copies of the Death Certificate by Certified Mail to the three credit reporting agencies and request that a “deceased alert”, be placed on the decedent’s credit report. Copies of the Death Certificate should also be forwarded to banks, insurancecompanies, and other financial firms which have been utilized by the decedent, and a request should be made to them that they close the decedent’s account.  

It is also important to provide notice of the deceased’s death to the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Do not give thieves the information they need to steal a decedent’s identity. For example, when preparing the obituary, do not provide information which can be used to steal their identity such as their date of birth, place of birth, last known address, and employment.

Finally, you should monitor the deceased’s credit report at “annualcreditreport.com”, to see if there is any suspicious activity is reported.