“Death makes you an even more irresistible target to identity thieves.” It’s sad but true… According to an article that I recently ran across, you’re never safe from identity theft, not even after death. Scam artists like to target the dead because it can take much longer for fraudulent activity to be detected than if the victim were alive and kicking. They then proceed to run up charges on existing accounts, open new accounts, and even drain funds from the decedent’s deposit accounts. So how can you protect yourself? You can’t — you’ll be dead before it ever happens! But you can reduce the chances that your dear departed loved ones will be targeted. But how?
First off, keep the obituary short and sweet. The less info you give, the less a crook has to go on. Second, request a copy of the decedent’s credit report and check it for nefarious activity. Then have their report flagged with a “deceased” alert — and be sure to contact each agency individually, as they apparently don’t share death information amongst agencies. Who else should you notify? Start with the Social Security Administration, credit card companies, banks, stockbrokers, loan/lien holders, mortgage companies, etc. Note that while the federal government keeps a ‘Death Master File’ that gets transmitted to financial institutions, it can take awhile for information to trickle down to the appropriate entities, and not everyone makes it onto the list.
Note that you can even get your loved ones off mailing lists putting them on the Direct Marketing Association’s deceased ‘do not contact’ list. If nothing else, this can help people deal with the loss of their loved ones without constantly being reminded of the death by telemarketers and junk mailers. More info on the list can be found here.
What if someone you love falls victim to post-mortem ID theft? Well, you can usually clear things up pretty quickly with a copy of the death certificate. However, sorting all of this out while dealing with their death can be quite a burden, and it would certainly be best to avoid it in the first place.
For an exhaustive list of precautionary steps, as well as what to do if you suspect fraudulent activity, check out this page from the ID Theft Center. They even have sample form letters for contacting the credit bureaus, etc.