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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Identity Theft Can Happen at Any Time – Even After Death

Identity Theft After Death

No matter what the situation, the death of a loved one is among the worst experience people have to endure. However, when parents are forced to bury their own children long, it can be especially trying. For some families, though, the loss of their child only gets compounded when thieves take advantage of the devastating situation to commit identity theft.

This was the case for the parents of 18-year-old Gregory Welch, who died in a car accident in Virginia Beach in February 2013. His parents, Virginia and Kenneth, had to deal with not only the grief that comes about from such a tragedy, but also settle the first-year community college student’s accounts. When they went to file Gregory’s taxes soon after his death, Kenneth and Virginia were surprised to find that someone had beaten them to it. Not only that, but investigators indicated that it is likely a thief had stolen Kenneth’s identity posthumously, knowing full well that they’d be piling onto any heartache Gregory’s loved ones were already struggling with.

This isn’t the most common form of theft of identity, but it is still a problem litigators have to contend with regularly. According to a statement made to, a regional news source, Steven Toporoff, an attorney in the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, says that there are many ways thieves can commit this crime. One such method is accessing the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, which lists the Social Security information of deceased individuals in an attempt to prevent fraud. However, this can be abused by thieves should creditors not be diligent about checking it to make sure accounts aren’t being falsely opened.

This all goes to show that potential thieves will resort to unbelievable means to conduct their fraud, in some cases in both life and death. You and your loved ones have to be diligent about keeping information secure, monitoring your accounts, and maintaining finances regularly.