Suffering the loss of a loved one is already difficult, and if that person becomes a victim of posthumous identity theft, the hardship only worsens. While it may not feel like a priority when there are arrangements to make and grieving to be done, protecting the identity of a recently deceased loved one can be just as important as protecting the identity of someone who’s living.
The IRS reports that 2.5 million deceased people are the victims of identity theft each year. Thieves can take advantage of the long processes involved with death notices reaching the bureau and the fact that the person will no longer be checking their credit.
Fortunately, family members of the victim are not held responsible for any fraudulent debts, but knowing that someone used your loved one’s identity can be incredibly upsetting. To help prevent this kind of distress, be sure to follow these tips:
- Be cautious with obituary details. While you want these words to provide details about services and your loved one’s life, thieves can get a lot of sensitive information from an obituary. Some of these details, such as birth date, mother’s maiden name and home address, may seem innocuous but can clue into possible passwords and security questions, making your loved one vulnerable to theft.
- Close the deceased’s accounts yourself. While creditors and the Social Security Administration typically contact credit bureaus, the DMV and the IRS to notify them of a person’s death, this process can take months, which gives thefts plenty of time to use an identity. To prevent this, you can expedite this process by contacting your loved one’s creditors and letting them know that the account holder is now deceased. This way, if there’s any activity, creditors will know that it’s fraudulent and can notify you. The IRS recommends sending them a copy of the death certificate as soon as possible, so that the account can be flagged. Its website provides a lot of the necessary documents and information about closing the deceased’s accounts.
- Keep checking up. After you’ve sent a notice of death to all these agencies, you can continue to make sure there isn’t any fraudelent activity by requesting a copy of the deceased’s credit report and checking on it periodically. While it takes time and effort to prevent posthumous identity theft, it provides peace of mind knowing that your loved one’s identity is as protected as possible.
It’s important to be proactive about protecting an identity, even if it’s for someone no longer living. This can help reduce vulnerabilities to ID theft and lessen that pain. For additional protection, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. With that information, you’ll know whether you have to obtain a credit freeze or pursue damages related to your compromised identity.