Here’s a disturbing statistic… “nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans”
identities are compromised each year!!
This practice, referred to as “Ghosting,” is when thieves steal the identities
of the recently deceased. Statistics show that most successful attempts at
Ghosting take place at a time when a family is most vulnerable and the least
likely to be monitoring the deceased person’s information… the immediate days
and weeks following death. By monitoring death notices and obituaries listed in
hospitals, newspapers and social media, thieves can easily collect information,
such as names, addresses, date of birth, maiden name, etc. and use this
information to steal the deceased’s identity.
So, if you find yourself in this situation, what can you do to protect your
deceased loved one’s identity and prevent the hassle of identity theft?
IDTheftCenter recommends the following:
Be sparse with obituary details
. You can list the person’s age in an obituary or death
notice, but try to avoid date of birth, maiden name or other identifying
details. And definitely skip the home address.
Notify financial institutions
. If there is a surviving spouse or other joint account
holder, send a death certificate as soon as you can to credit card companies,
banks, stock brokers, loan holders and mortgage companies. If you close any
accounts, ask the institution to list it as: "Closed. Account holder is
Contact all credit reporting agencies
. You may need to follow specific instructions for each
agency and send a death certificate to each. Ask that the agency flag the
person’s credit report with the following alert: "Deceased. Do not issue
credit." At the same time, request a copy of the decedent’s credit report so
you know all active credit accounts that may need to be closed and any pending
You’ll need to do this in writing. The addresses are:
Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013; Equifax Information Services LLC
Office of Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348; and TransUnion
LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
Check credit reports
. A few weeks later, check the credit report of the
person from one of the three agencies to see if there is any suspicious
activity. Do the same a few months later as well.
Alert other institutions.
Report the death to the Social Security Administration
and the Department of Motor Vehicles in an effort to take the person’s Social
Security number and driver’s license out of circulation.