Identity thieves do not blink an eye when wreaking havoc on the lives of their victims. However, when they steal the identity of a deceased person, it is the loved ones of the victim that suffer. According to the IRS, 2.5 million deceased Americans lose their identities to theft every year. These thieves take advantage of the fact that it takes up to a few months for an official notice of a death to reach the IRS, credit bureaus, and other interested parties.
Although the surviving family members are not responsible for any fraudulent charges that occur due to identity theft, it can be very distressing to find out that a thief has used the identity of a loved one to file untrue health insurance claims or tax returns. Even worse, many debt collectors may repeatedly call the home of the deceased person, causing immense distress to a grieving family.
Identity thieves can sometimes obtain personal information about deceased individuals by stealing death certificates or reading obituaries. Also known as ghosting, this can go on for many months until the crime has been detected. This could be because the identity thieves are aware of how to make use of the period between the death of a person to the time when financial institutions or government agencies have received news of the death. So how can you protect your deceased loves ones from identity theft?
How to Prevent Fraud
Here are some tips on how to ensure that thieves do not steal the information of your loved ones.
Contact their creditors
Ideally, you would be able to find paperwork with information about their creditors which they have left behind. If you need to close any of the accounts, it is important to request that the reason for closure is stated clearly.
Keep information to a minimum in the obituary
Typically, many fraudsters go to obituaries to search for identifiable information and target their victims. Hence, you should not include private and personal information like the birth date, mother’s maiden name, and home address.
Freeze new credit
The Social Security Administration and creditors will usually send an alert to the IRS, state motor vehicles departments, and credit bureaus about the death. However, this process can take a very long time, up to a few months. You should handle it yourself to prevent thieves from taking advantage of your loved one during this period.
Get a copy of the deceased’s report
After the credit bureaus has been notified, it will take a few weeks for them to update the report. After which, you should ask for a copy and check if there is any suspicious activity. Check on this again a few months later.
Losing a loved one can be very difficult, and the pain can be exacerbated if their identity gets stolen. By proactively protecting your loved ones, it will give you a peace of mind.
If you require assistance with protecting your deceased loved ones from identity theft, please do not hesitate to contact us through our online form today.