According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 7% of US households experienced some type of identity theft in 2010. With the capabilities of the internet, those statistics are steadily on the rise these days. Unfortunately, some of these identity thieves steal the identities of loved ones who are already dead.
Identity theft of the dead often happens shortly after death. Thieves will steal personal information out of obituaries and will buy the victims' social security numbers online. Then, they'll apply for credit in the name of the deceased. Family members of the deceased are rarely held accountable for debts run up by identity thieves, but they can spend plenty of time and money trying to resolve the situation.
Credit card identity theft of the dead is one of the most common types, but often times, thieves will even take out car loans in the name of deceased identity theft victims. If you need to protect a deceased family member from identity theft, here are the steps to take:
1. Be discreet. One of the first things you'll probably do after making funeral arrangements is to write an obituary and post it in your local paper. Be careful about revealing too much personal information, such as the deceased's mother's maiden name, their address, or their day, month, and year of birth. Many family members don't think of this, and the deceased's home is broken into during the funeral. Also, the more personal information you reveal, the easier it will be to steal your loved one's identity.
2. Shred credit cards as soon as possible. It's not that difficult, actually, to block thieves from taking out new credit in the name of the deceased, but it can take some time for credit card accounts to get shut down. Find and destroy all of the deceased's credit cards in order to protect those accounts from identity thieves.
3. Notify the Social Security Administration. One of the first phone calls you should make after a loved one dies is to the Social Security Administration. Call 800-772-1213 to report the death. This can protect the deceased's social security number from being used again.
4. Notify the credit reporting bureaus. You'll also need to call the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Let each bureau know that the person is deceased so that no new credit will be taken out in his or her name. You'll need to mail a copy of the actual death certificate to the credit bureaus, as well, so that you can prove the death.
5. Continue to protect confidential information. Even after you have reported the death to the Social Security Administration and the credit reporting bureaus, you should protect the deceased's personal information. Keep his or her death certificate protected as you would a passport or birth certificate, and be careful about who you give copies of the certificate to.
Daniela Baker from the credit card deals website, CreditDonkey says these five relatively simple steps can protect you from having to deal with the effects of identity theft of the deceased during a time of grief. While it may be difficult to carry out these steps at such a sad time, it's important to protect the deceased and his or her family from the ramifications of identity theft as best you can.