Identity Theft Beyond the GraveBe Vigilant Against Criminals Who Target the Recently-Deceased There are many people who fall victim to identity theft every year. But an even darker threat looms around people who have recently lost a loved one. Growing numbers of identity theft deal with victims who have died.
Some scam artists target the recently deceased because they think that they stand a much lesser chance of getting caught. This is not necessarily true, ironically, since the executor of the estate of the recently deceased is supposed to inform all of the person's creditors of the death as soon as possible.
Contacting all creditors is an important first step against identity theft because the creditors relay the information to the credit bureaus. From there, the bureaus consult a death list maintained by the Social Security Administration. Sometimes, though, the name takes a few months to show up on the Social Security list, so executors must be vigilant about making sure the proper people are notified.
To check and see if the person is listed as deceased, the easiest and quickest way is to check the person's credit reports at the three bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). If the deceased is not properly listed as dead, then you can request that this notation be added to the credit report. Sometimes though this can run people into some trouble. Sometimes other individuals, especially the spouse, can be confused with the deceased, and the wrong person is listed. This can cause trouble for the living party, but can be corrected by notifying the bureaus.
The best thing to do to prevent identity theft of a deceased person is to take the same precautions as you would for your own safety against identity theft. Make sure that private paperwork and other documents with personal information are not improperly discarded. Always shred important paperwork that is no longer needed. Also, if you are not sure whether it is important or not, shred it anyway. If there is a mountain of paperwork to go through, there are professional shredding services that you can hire. You may be able to get a referral from a bank or local accountant.
Remembering that identity theft can happen to anyone, living or dead, adult or child, is important, because you may some day be in the position of handling a loved one's estate. It is well worth taking a few extra steps to ensure your loved one's identity is protected, in life and beyond.