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Don’t Get Spooked by ID Theft
of the Dead

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Jana CastanonBy Jana Castanon

It seems when it comes to stealing from other people, ID thieves are willing to reach beyond the grave. It’s sad to think that our loved ones identities could be used to commit fraud, and unfortunately each year millions of families are affected. The thieves use the information from obituaries, and even the Social Security Administration, to gather information they need to commit crimes. Aptly enough, the crime is called ghosting.

Using the information they steal, the thieves are able to apply for credit cards, obtain loans, and submit fraudulent tax returns. The IRS estimates the problem costs American tax payers more than 5 billion dollars, and involves more than 2.5 million fraudulent identities every year.

There is some good news to this story. When your loved one’s identity is stolen, you are not responsible for the debt. Furthermore, there are some concrete steps that you can take to prevent ghosting from happening in your family.

  1. Immediately inform the Social Security Administration of your loved one’s death by calling: 800-772-1213.
  2. Inform the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) in writing. Ask them to place a deceased alert on the credit report.
  3. Follow up by ordering their credit report to ensure there has not been any fraudulent activity. Continue  to monitor the credit history for a year. You can obtain free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  4. Contact banks credit card companies and other businesses, like insurance agencies and investment brokers that your loved one may have used. Have them list the account as Closed: Account holder is deceased.
  5. Limit the information that you include in an obituary. Don’t use birthdates, home addresses, or mother’s maiden names. These pieces of information are what thieves look for to garner information.
  6. Cancel their driver’s license to prevent a fraudulent ID from being issued.

At a time when you and your family are grieving, ID theft is the last thing you want to worry about. By taking these simple steps you can ensure this crime does not affect your loved one’s legacy.

Jana Castanon is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Apprisen. Apprisen is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. To schedule an appointment with a certified financial professional call 800.355.2227, or visit Apprisen’s website atwww.apprisen.com.

Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.

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