The ultimate identity theft

Protect your deceased loved one’s personal information.

Grieving family members may have to face the possibility that their loved one’s personal information has been stolen. Unfortunately, postmortem identity theft is not uncommon. Thieves obtain this information in a variety of ways. Genealogy websites, friends and relatives of the deceased, hospital and funeral home employees are a few of the methods used. However, the largest resource is the Social Security Death Master File. In March 2015, the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, reported there were approximately 6.5 million number holders (age 112 or older) who had no death information on file.

Decedents with no recorded date of death are likely to have their social security numbers and other information stolen to access existing accounts, obtain loans and credit cards fraudulently, and to file bogus tax returns.

There are several steps to take to protect a person’s information after their death. First, request several copies of the death certificate and then:

  • Notify every government agency that had a relationship with the decedent
    • The Social Security Administration
    • The Internal Revenue Service
    • The Veterans Administration
    • Defense Finance and Accounting Service
    • Department of Motor Vehicles
    • United States Citizen and Immigration Service
    • Office of Personnel Management
  • Notify the three credit reporting bureaus and credit card issuers

    • Equifax
    • Experian
    • Transunion
  • Notify insurance companies

    • Medical
    • Life
    • Auto
    • Property
    • Dental
  • Notify financial companies

    • Banks
    • Credit Unions
    • Stock Brokerages
    • Mutual Fund companies
    • Annuity issuers
    • Financial Planners
    • Loan Associations
    • Mortgage Companies
    • Other lenders
  • And don’t forget

    • Pension Providers
    • Trust Administrators
    • Member organizations and Affiliations

Michigan State University Extension suggest that family members should be cautious when publishing obituaries. Avoid divulging personal information such as date and place of birth, address, or place of employment. Remember to monitor the person’s credit reports. Free credit reports can be obtained online

According to the website, when identity theft is evident, call the companies where the fraud has occurred. Contact the credit reporting bureaus. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a report with your local police department.

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