We’ve talked before about how you just can’t get away from identity theft. You could be a victim of credit card fraud. Even your children are at risk, but it gets even worse. Literally no one is safe from identity theft—not even the dead.
That’s right. Not even your deceased loved ones are safe from the threatening grip of an identity thief. How is this possible, you ask?
Why the deceased make the perfect victims
The last thing you want to deal with when a loved one has passed is their finances, but that’s the reason why the deceased make the perfect victims. In some ways, identity thieves believe that stealing from the dead is a victimless crime. It’s not, and we’ll get to that in a second, but because you aren’t likely to check your loved one’s credit score before the funeral, an identity thief can continue scamming the deceased for much longer than a living person before being discovered.
How identity thieves find personal information of the recently deceased
It’s unbelievably easy for scammers to figure out whose recently deceased. They can check obituaries in the newspaper or online. This one small article gives scammers a lot of great information. They can learn the age and birth date of the deceased, towns they’ve lived in, family members’ names, and more. All this stuff is great information if you’re in the market to steal an identity.
But that’s not all. Basic information can be gathered in hospitals and even funeral homes. A pro only needs a name. Then they can use public records to find out everything they need.
What do they do with the information?
There are lots of ways an identity thief can use your information, but some are easier than others when it comes to scamming dead people.
It’s all about perpetuating a scam for as long as possible, so most scammers head straight to the bank to borrow money. It could be a loan or a new credit card. Of course they have no intention of paying the money back. They could rack up tens of thousands of dollars before anyone even gets wise to what they’re doing.
If scammers are able to borrow money from the bank, they may also be able to access personal accounts. In addition, tax fraud is a popular way to scam the living, but the deceased are even better because they are usually entitled to more governmental benefits than younger Americans.
Some criminals will even perpetuate a crime in your loved one’s name. Imagine reading the paper to discover your dear old grandpa attempted to rob a gas station!
Why posthumous identity theft is a problem
As I mentioned before, some identity thieves feel less bad about stealing the identity of the deceased because the person isn’t alive to deal with the repercussions, but that doesn’t mean family members won’t have to deal with the aftermath.
If your dead grandma has been borrowing thousands of dollars, you’re going to have to file paperwork and communicate with the bank, which is the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re mourning. For this reason, taking the identity of a deceased person is even more cruel.
What if the deceased person has left behind a spouse? If the identity thief is using an existing bank account to take out new loans and access accounts, that spouse may be blamed and may be asked to pay back the amount. What a devastating thing to have to deal with when your husband has just passed away!
If no spouse is left behind, but your family is entitled to an inheritance, it can be a lengthy process to get that inheritance if the bank thinks your deceased loved one owes a bunch of money. You may have to wait months or years before the entire matter is settled and you get the money and family heirlooms you deserve.
Remember I mentioned tax fraud earlier? It’s a huge problem. It literally costs our government billions of dollars each year because they’re paying money to the wrong people. That’s right. I said billions of dollars. I wonder where all that money comes from…. Are the criminals paying it back? I don’t think so.
Is there anything you can do about it?
Here at In Home Safety Guide, we wouldn’t tell you all the gloom and doom without providing you with a few tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you!
- Notify every one of your loved one’s death, including family members and financial institutions, like banks, insurance companies, and stock brokers.
- Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license with the state’s department of motor vehicles.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on credit accounts. Each of the three credit bureaus can even label the account “deceased” to reduce confusion.
- When a loved one dies, start a log of finances, accounts, and belongings so you’re aware of any immediate changes.
- Keep all physical documents and personal information under lock and key. Only one or two people should have access to this information.
- Be careful with your loved one’s obituary. Avoid mentioning a birth date, mother’s maiden name, home address, relatives’ names, or middle name.
Your loved one deserves to rest in peace, and you deserve to remember all the good times without having to make phone calls to creditors in between reminiscing.
With our tips, you can put those identity thieves in their place and protect your loved ones who are here with you and on the other side.