Not exactly “fun” news for The Fun Times Guide… but helpful information nonetheless.
I was taken aback this morning when I saw a segment on The Today Show called How To Stop Identity Theft Of The Dead.
The part that stuck in my head: “Don’t give away too many details about your loved one in the obituary.”
They shared the story of a man who died at the age of 72 with only 2 credit cards to his name.
However, in the 2 weeks after his death, more than 20 credit applications had been created in his name.
The fact of the matter is, with just a name, address, and a birthdate, losers can buy a Social Security Number for next to nothing. It’s an easy way for them to steal identities and credit lines… since most deceased individuals don’t check their credit reports.
Scammers troll through obituaries for names and addresses. Then they buy Social Security numbers and other personal data — such as credit histories — of the recently departed for as little as $15 on the Internet. ‘About 400,000 checking accounts were opened in the names of deceased people in 2004,’ says Jay Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a San Diego-based consumer advocacy group. But often the goal is to open credit accounts in the name of the dead. Source
Here are some important steps you should take to protect the identity of your loved one:
When writing the obituary, don’t include the day and month of their birth — only use the year. Be as generic as possible in the obituary… don’t mention where the person was born, and don’t give any addresses in the obituary. (“Aside from preventing identity theft, you don’t want thieves to visit the house, helping themselves while you’re interring a loved one.” Source
What You Should Do
#1 – Notify the Social Security Administration of the death right away. Not only does the SSA maintain a master list of all deceased individuals by Social Security Number (which will prevent the use of that SSN by anyone else in the future), but they also inform a whole host of other agencies as well. This one phone call prevents you from having to notify “everyone under the sun”.
#2 – Make several dozen copies of the death certificate so you’ll always have one on hand should you need to dispute something in the future.
#3 – Death certificates should immediately be sent to anyone who has issued credit to this person (credit card companies, banks), along with a request to cancel the account(s) immediately. Even notify all “joint” accounts, to inform them that one of the individuals on the account is deceased. Also send a copy of the death certificate to each of the 3 credit-reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) immediately after the person’s death.
#4 – Contact your state department of motor vehicles (DMV) to void the person’s driver license number and prevent duplicates from being issued. Often, fake driver’s licenses and ID cards are made using the info of a deceased person.
#5 – Finally, request a credit report of the deceased person.(“By law, you are entitled a free credit report from all three main bureaus every year. Several weeks following the death, use this service to run a credit report on the deceased to ensure there’s no suspicious activity.”)
When a loved one dies, and there’s so much else going on, you really don’t think about having to protect their name and reputation. But unfortunately, you really have to. Source
Check here on the Today Show website for lots more details, helpful tips, and even a sample letter to help prevent the risk of identity theft of the dead.
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).