We know a little bit about identity theft; enough to know we need to learn more about how to avoid this dangerous threat to our financial security. Unfortunately, there is one group for whom this problem poses the greatest threat and yet its victims have no means to protect themselves—the dead.
According to ID Analytics Identity, a fraud prevention firm, identity thieves steal more than 2 .5 million identities every year from dead Americans. Luckily, we now have ways of preventing these thieves from targeting our deceased loved ones thereby saving companies doing business with these scammers thousands of dollars in noncollectable fees.
These scam artists take advantage of families at a time when they are most venerable- immediately following the death of a loved one. Obviously, this information is not difficult to learn; trolling the obituary column makes it easy. To prevent this theft, the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion ask that you notify them in writing as soon as possible that they has been a death. Otherwise, it can take up to six months for these agencies to learn your loved one has died. With all your other concerns and responsibilities at this very trying time, adding another item to your list is likely the last thing you want to do. Although each credit agency has a very specific list of what they want included in your notification to them, that list likely includes: a certified copy of the death certificate along with the decedent's full name, date of birth, Social Security number, last address and their date of death. You should also include documentation that identifies you as person representing the deceased. Request that the credit bureaus put a "deceased -- do not issue credit" alert on the decedent's credit files. These are not the only agencies who should be notified in order to prevent identity theft. While you probably know that financial institutions, insurance agencies and the state and federal government needs to receive notice of death, you should also cancel the decedent's driver's license by notifying the state's Department of Motor Vehicles of the death. That's one agency I might have overlooked!
As mentioned, the primary way identity thieves find victims is by looking through obituaries. When writing that obituary, you should avoid providing information that might be useful. Think in terms of what information you might be asked to furnish when opening a bank account. So, date of birth, mother's maiden name, final address--none of this information should be included in this announcement.
Finally, just when you thought that nothing else could or should be added to your impossibly long list of things to do, think again. These agencies provide one last piece of advice: monitor the decedent's credit report for a year to make sure there are no problems!
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: elder law planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning. However, proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project. Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.
Reference: Bankrate.com “Avoiding ID Theft on a Dead Family Member”