If you recently suffered the loss of a loved one, identity theft is a very real threat that could end up causing you more trouble as you begin to settle their estate. Unfortunately identity thieves target the deceased by rummaging through the obituaries, stealing death certificates or believe it or not by obtaining the information directly from the Social Security Administration's Death Master File which lists the name and social security numbers of the deceased. This tool is supposed to be used to verify deaths if you are a financial institution, but unfortunately criminals use this information to steal identities.
What can happen if your deceased loved one's identity is stolen?
Just like identity theft of a live person, identity thieves will open credit accounts, apply for loans, carry on a double life or even attempt to steal money directly from their existing accounts. If you are the executor of the estate, it is your responsibility to pay off all creditors, but what if your deceased loved one is a victim of fraud and you are asked to pay for debts made after or before their death that they did not make? Following is a list of measures the Identity Theft Resource Center recommends to help prevent identity theft of a deceased loved one:
- Obtain at least 12 copies of the death certificate to send account holders.
- Don't wait to notify the bank, credit card companies, mortgage, stock brokers or loan holders of their death.
- When closing out their account, be sure to have them list it as Closed. Account holder is deceased.
- Contact the credit reporting agencies right away and request they flag your loved one's credit as "Deceased. Do not issue credit." At this time request a copy of their credit report using the following form http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Letter-Templates/lf-117-1.html
- Send all correspondence certified and ask for a return receipt.
- Notify other accounts or memberships such as insurance companies, the DMV, the library, video or internet memberships and the VA if they were a veteran.
In the event you find your deceased loved one's identity has been stolen, contact the police where they lived to file a report. If you know the person who stole their identity use the following link on what to do by visiting, http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Fact-Sheets/fs-115.html
If you are a resident of Santa Ana and you are the victim of identity theft, refer to the Santa Ana Identity Theft Guide for help no matter where you live at http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/pd/documents/IdentityTheftEnglish.pdf You can also file a police report online by visiting the Santa Ana ePoliceReport site at http://www.epolicereport.com/asp/pdweb.asp?pdkey=CA92701SAPD
When it comes to identity theft after death, identity thieves are going to act quick so you should too. If you have a family member who is struggling with this topic, please forward this article and don't forget to subscribe for the latest updates on identity theft news, protection and prevention.
ITRC (2013). ITRC Solution 16; protecting deceased identity Identity Theft Resource Center website. Retrieved from http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Solutions/sn-16.html