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New York & North Carolina

Three Ways to Avoid Identity Theft Following Death

Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC

Identity theft is when someone obtains access to your personal information and uses it for their own gain. Identify theft may include withdrawing money from bank accounts, using credit cards to make purchases, or using the social security number to obtain a loan.

Because it can take as long as six months for credit agencies to get notice of a death, the deceased are frequent targets for identity theft. In a crime known as "ghosting," identity thieves steal the identities of almost two million deceased Americans each year from various public sources. Social Security numbers, government benefits, tax returns, drivers’ licenses, and medical records are just a few examples of the deceased's personal information that may be at risk.

Here's how to avoid identity theft after death, saving your family thousands of dollars and heartache.

Write the obituary with care

The deceased’s obituary is one of the most easily accessible sources of information for thieves. An obituary will frequently include information such as the deceased's birthday, mother's maiden name, the names of other relatives, and the deceased's home address. Limiting this information can help to reduce the likelihood of identity theft.

Inform the Social Security Administration

Call the SSA as soon as possible to let them know that your loved one has passed away because much of their identity is linked to their Social Security Number.

Alert credit bureaus and financial institutions of the death

Start by obtaining the deceased's credit report; to do this, you will need the necessary identity information, such as your loved one's full name, address, birthday, and Social Security number. This will help you determine which financial accounts are open. Then, submit copies of the death certificate to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit-reporting bureaus using certified mail with "return receipt" and request that they add a "deceased alert" to the credit report.

A copy of the death certificate should also be sent to any banks, insurance providers, credit card companies, or other financial organizations where the deceased had accounts. Additionally, you need to let the state motor vehicles office know that the deceased's license should be suspended. If necessary, inform the U.S. State Department that your loved one has passed away to get their passport cancelled and prevent anyone from traveling under their name.