Hundreds of thousands of deceased persons are targeted each year by identity thieves. This crime is commonly referred to as “ghosting.” Fraudsters often target soon after death, when a grieving family is most vulnerable. Surviving family members are victims as well. Although a deceased’s loved ones are not personally responsible for fraudulent debt, it places hurdles in front of the already difficult task of taking care of a person’s final affairs. Several simple steps can be taken to minimize the chance that your loved ones will be victimized.
Limit the information you put in an obituary. Thieves often scan obituaries for victims because they are one of the most readily available sources of information. Avoid including information such as the deceased’s maiden name, exact date of birth, address, middle name and other personally identifying information that is commonly needed for opening an account or applying for a credit card.
Notify all financial entities with which the deceased had a relationship so they can flag any accounts. Close the accounts as soon as possible. Close credit cards and notify all creditors as well.
Contact government agencies including the Social Security Administration, IRS and Veteran’s Administration if the deceased is a veteran. Also, cancel the deceased’s driver’s license with the department of motor vehicles.
Immediately notify each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and ask them to put a “deceased alert” on the credit report. Request a copy of the credit report so that you will have a list of accounts that need to be taken care of.
Identities are easy to steal and difficult to reclaim. Grieving families do not need additional hardship and stress. Take these steps so that your loved one’s identity is protected even after death.
Ashley Naramore is an estate planning attorney focusing her practice in Garland County and Saline County of Western Arkansas. She can be reached at Baim Reagler & Naramore at 501-609-9800.