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  • Writer's pictureCook Tillman

How to protect your deceased loved one’s identity from theft

Identity thieves know no shame, even when they have to rob the dead to get what they want. It’s estimated that thieves purposefully steal the identity of roughly 800,000 recently deceased Americans every year.

Called “ghosting,” it’s a profitable enterprise for thieves – and it can turn into a frustrating experience for the bereaved.

How easy is it to get your loved one’s identifying information?

Unfortunately, your attempts to memorialize your loved one and spread the word about their passing are all it may take to get an identity thief started.

If they can locate your loved one’s birth date, full name and address through the obituary or other tributes, it only takes about 10 minutes and $10 to buy their Social Security number on the Dark Web. With that in hand, they can open new credit cards in your loved one’s name, take out new loans, steal their final tax return and more.

How can you stop an identity thief from abusing your loved one’s good name?

There are a few steps you can take that will frustrate would-be identity thieves, including:

  1. Withhold crucial information: In your loved one’s obituary, don’t reveal their exact birthday or other identifying information (like their mother’s maiden name).

  2. Alert the credit bureaus: You can ask Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to put an alert on their credit file that your loved one is deceased.

  3. Cancel their driver’s license: This will prevent anyone from obtaining a duplicate without your knowledge.

  4. Contact each creditor: Make sure that each of your loved one’s creditors has a copy of the death certificate so that they can close out their accounts (and not issue any new lines of credit).

Protecting your loved ones from identity theft after they are gone is just another part of the estate administration process. That’s why it’s wise to make sure that you have some experienced guidance from the very start.

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