A recent article by the American Academy of Estate Planning attorneys addressed the issue of post-death identity theft. Most of us are aware of the risk of identity theft while we are alive, with companies as large as Target and Home Depot falling victim to thieves who stole personal information about its customers. However, identity theft can also be an issue after you die, and twenty-five percent of the identities stolen every year are taken from the deceased. Here are some tips from the original article regarding how you can help prevent the theft of your loved one’s identity after he or she dies.
Alert the credit bureaus – You will need the social security number of the deceased in order to notify the credit bureaus and have them flag the credit report as “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit”. You should also get a copy of the deceased’s credit report which will contain a list of accounts that you will need to close. The three main credit bureaus you should contact are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) – You should notify the SSA of the death so that no additional social security cards will be issued with the deceased’s social security. Additionally, the SSA will know to stop sending social security payments for the deceased.
Keep obituaries short – Identity thieves will often use information contained in obituaries in order to set up accounts in the name of the deceased. Information such as date of birth, the city of residence, and mother’s maiden name can be used to open bogus accounts.
Close email and social media accounts – Dealing with digital assets such as email and Facebook accounts can be tricky, since each provide has its own policies regarding closing accounts, and the law is still developing in this area of estate planning. There is a service called eClosure that reportedly can assist in closing down email and social media accounts of a deceased person, even if the family does not have the passwords. The service currently costs $150 and can be used to close the following accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Mail, and some others. For more information, see this previous post on digital assets and estate planning.
Preventing identity theft after a person dies can be a relatively painless process if you follow a few simple steps within a reasonable time the death occurs. While there is no way to guarantee that identity theft will not occur, these steps could go a long way in preventing the identity theft of your loved one.
Reference: American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, “How to Prevent After-Death ID Theft”