Protecting Deceased Loved Ones from Identity Theft

July 19, 2013

Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating emotional events that we go through in life. Unfortunately, there are individuals who will exploit such loss for their own financial gain. They target the deceased for identity theft, using personal information gleaned from obituaries and death certificates to obtain Social Security numbers, from which they open credit card accounts, apply for loans, file tax returns and collect refunds, and purchase goods and services.  To protect your loved one’s estate from deceased identity theft, consider following these helpful tips:

1.       Keep personal information, such as the deceased’s home address or mother’s maiden name out of his or her obituaries.

2.       Obtain about 12 death certificates to use in notifying various credit agencies of your loved one’s death. While some will accept copies, others do require an original.

3.       If there is a surviving spouse or other joint account holder, make sure you notify credit card companies, banks, loan/lien holders, stockbrokers, etc. of the death. Note: they may require a copy of the death certificate and/or authorization from the surviving account holder in order to register the death.

4.       Request a credit report of the deceased and make sure the report is flagged, “Deceased. Do not issue credit.”

5.       If closing an account, such as in the case of an executor transferring the funds to a separate estate account, ask the bank to list the closed account as “Closed: account holder deceased.”

6.       Contact the Social Security Administration to report the death.

7.       Contact all credit reporting agencies, credit issuers, collection agencies or other financial institutions that need to know about the death.

8.       Contact the Veterans Administration if your loved one gave military service, INS if they were permanent residents

9.       Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to notify of death and change registration of vehicles to new owners

10.   Contact any state licensing agency for which the deceased held a professional license, such as a state bar or health care licensing bureau.

For more detailed information on deceased identity theft prevention, as well as sample forms,  check out this terrific resource guide at the Identity Theft Resource Center, http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/c_guide/Fact_Sheet_117_IDENTITY_THEFT_AND_THE_DECEASED_-_PREVENTION_AND_VICTIM_TIPS.shtml.