Identity theft knows no bounds today. Even death isn’t enough to protect a person from identity theft. ID Analytics is among the research groups that have discovered the identities of millions of deceased Americans are used to fraudulently open financial accounts every year.
This type of identity theft happens by chance and on purpose. Scammers may randomly use a deceased person’s social security number, or they may know the person is deceased and try to take advantage of the situation. Either way, there are things you can do to step in and protect a loved one’s identity after death.
Call the Social Security Administration
The most important thing you can do to protect the identity of a deceased loved one is to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) immediately. You want the SSA to be alerted as quickly as possible since they are a huge safeguard. Calling the nationwide toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 is the quickest way to get in touch. But keep in mind paperwork still needs to be received and registered by the administration.
File a Statement of Death With the Social Security Administration
The next step is filing a statement of death with the SSA. Often this part of the process is handled by the funeral home. Verify this with the funeral home and request that you be notified when the statement is filed. Doing so will help prevent someone from trying to receive social security benefits and using a deceased person’s social security number to get a job that will then be used to assess taxes.
Don’t Include Sensitive Information in Announcements
There are criminals who specifically target the deceased by looking for obituaries and death announcements on social media. They see opportunity in the loving remembrance that shares details about the deceased’s life. They’ll use those details to open up a credit card account or take out a loan they never intend to pay.
If you plan to make a public announcement about the death take care not to share certain details that could be used for identity theft, like the deceased’s:
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Place of birth
- Last address or residence
- Mother’s maiden name
Any type of information that may be needed to open a line of credit or make a purchase shouldn’t be shared, even on private social media accounts.
Send Official Death Certificates to the Credit Bureaus and Banks
In addition to opening up new accounts, some crooks may try to access existing accounts that the deceased owned. You’ll need to get a number of official death certificates because they are required by most financial institutions to access or make changes to accounts. Call ahead to alert all financial institutions that your loved one passed away and you’ll be sending the death certificate.
You’ll also need to send a death certificate to each of the three credit bureaus. Along with the death certificate include a request for a copy of the deceased’s credit report. Check to also make sure that a “deceased alert” is added to the credit reports.
Close Individual Financial Accounts
Any accounts that were used only by the deceased should be closed. It should be noted that the account was closed because the account owner is deceased. This will prevent identity thieves from withdrawing funds or making purchases on a credit card.
Remove Their Name From Shared Accounts
If the deceased shared an account with someone else their name should be removed from the account. This protects the other account owner should an identity thief try to access the account using the deceased person’s information.
Send the IRS a Certified Death Certificate
Filing taxes is another way that crooks make money off of a stolen identity. They collect billions in tax refunds using the identities of the deceased. The best way to prevent this from happening is to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You’ll need to file a final tax return and provide the IRS with a death certificate.
Keep Personal Information as Confidential as Possible
Unfortunately, identity theft can happen from within the family. It’s best to limit who has access to accounts financial information and personal information. The only person who actually needs to have this information is the executor of a will or the next of kin who is in charge of settling the deceased’s estate.
Alert the DMV
Duplicating a drivers license is another form of identity theft. You can prevent this from happening to a deceased loved one by alerting the DMV about the death. Let them know the license needs to be canceled, which may mean handing the exiting drivers license over.
Monitor Activity to Look for Identity Theft
After taking the steps above you’ve still got to be vigilant. It’s best to regularly monitor accounts and credit activity to look for signs of identity theft. There are also identity theft monitoring companies that offer this service for a monthly or annual fee.
At Green Cremation Texas our goal is to make end of life services as easy as possible for families. As a part of our cremation services, we’ll file the proper paperwork that’s needed for obtaining death certificates quickly so there’s one less thing to worry about.