Identity thieves target 2.5 million people after death each year in the USA by opening up credit cards accounts, applying for loans, and obtaining cell phone services in their names. Most likely the deceased does not care that their identity has been stolen, however, if the deceased is your loved one and you have joints accounts with his/her name still on them, your financial health may be at risk.
Crooks obtain information about the newly departed from hospitals, funeral homes, and obituaries. Since it can take up to 6 months for the death records to be registered with the Social Security Administration, they have ample opportunity to file tax returns to obtain refunds and to obtain credit cards to make fraudulent purchases.
Steps for Stopping Identity Theft of Deceased Loves Ones
In the midst of grieving for a loved one is not a good time to start this process. Having a folder or spreadsheet with a list of financial institutions and appointing a friend, a relative, or an attorney to manage this process prior to a loved one's death is helpful.
- List only their age or decade, not their birthdate or mother's maiden name.
- Do not list the home address as sometimes thieves will visit when you are at the funeral.
Send certified copies of the death certificate via certified mail, return receipt requested. Specify if you are closing the accounts of a deceased person or if you are removing their name from joint accounts.
- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - with a "deceased alert" request.
- Banks where they have checking and saving accounts.
- Brokerages where they have bond, stock, and mutual fund accounts.
- Mortgage companies where they have mortgages and home equity loans.
Contact the following agencies to report the death.
- A Social Security office near you.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles in their state to cancel their driver's license.
Request free reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com.
- 6 weeks
- 6 months