A very unfortunate trend has been appearing in the world of identity theft – stealing the identities of the recently deceased. Not only can this wreak financial havoc on the estate of a recently departed family member or loved one, it also creates significant emotional stress for the bereaving people who must now navigate an identity theft (on top of grieving and settling an estate).
Thieves will scan obituaries for personal information to begin the process of stealing the identity of the deceased. Fortunately, there are steps we can take, immediately after the passing of a loved one, to help reduce the possibility of identity theft.
The National Funeral Directors Association provides a list of institutions to notify when someone has passed. For most of these, you will need to contact them by phone first, with a written follow up per each institution’s individual guidance. Most will likely require a copy of a death certificate, a social security number, and if you are the executor or administrator of the estate, documents verifying your status as such.
In the event of a loved one’s death, it is important to contact the following agencies to protect against identity theft:
• Social Security Administration
• Credit Card and Merchant Card Companies
• Banks, Credit Unions, and Savings & Loan Associations
• Mortgage Companies/Lenders
• Pension Providers
• Financial Planners
• Stock Brokers
• Life Insurers and Annuity Companies
• Health, Medical, and Dental Insurers
• Auto Insurers
• Disability Insurers
• Mutual Benefit Companies
• All Three Credit Reporting Agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
• Office of Personnel Management (if decedent was a federal civil service employee)
• U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (if decedent was not a U.S. citizen)
• State Department of Motor Vehicles (if decedent had a driver’s license)
• Veteran’s Administration (if decedent served in the military)
• Defense Finance and Accounting Service (if decedent was a military retiree receiving benefits)
• Any and all memberships held by the decedent (health clubs, professional associations, libraries, social clubs, fraternal organizations, etc.)
By contacting these institutions and organizations immediately, you can help make all possible parties aware of your loved one’s passing, and in doing so, protect their sensitive information against theft and misuse.
Be sure to ask the funeral home if they offer any services to assist with this process – they may also have additional suggestions for organizations and institutions to contact.
The risk of identity theft does not stop with the end of life, so take the necessary steps to protect your loved one’s identity even after they are gone.
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