6 Steps to Prevent Identity Theft of the Dead

Photo (cc) by Mel B.

Everybody knows identity thieves are low-down scoundrels, but how low will they go? Apparently, even six feet under.

Last month, Forbes reported that the IRS paid out more than $12 million in tax refunds to dead people in 2010: victims of identity theft. Proof that these days, it’s not enough to protect your own identity. You have to look out for lost loved ones too.

Watch the video below to learn more about this terrible practice, and then read on for advice to help prevent it…

As mentioned in the video above, it can take up to six months for banks and government agencies to learn of a death on their own. Since criminals can use that window to steal a dead person’s identity, here are the steps you can take to close it:

  1. Get certified copies of the death certificate. The first thing you’ll do if placed in charge of an estate is to contact everyone the deceased dealt with by phone to notify them. While you’re on the phone, find out the process for closing or transferring ownership of the account. Nearly all financial institutions will require a death certificate to begin the process. Some may accept photocopies, but most won’t: You’ll need a certified copy for each. As added protection, also send a certified copy to each of the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.)
  2. Contact financial institutions in writing. Once you understand what each agency or institution wants, prepare it in writing with all the supporting documentation. What they require will differ by institution, but you’ll most likely need to include the name and Social Security number of the deceased, dates of birth and death, home addresses for the past five years, and a copy of the death certificate. Keep copies of all correspondence.
  3. Keep the obit vague. When memorializing a loved one in the newspaper, realize the information is going public and may be seen by identity thieves. Try to avoid using the full date of birth, middle and maiden names, and home address.
  4. Be careful dumping documents. Make sure to shred any paperwork or junk mail belonging to the deceased before throwing it out, just as you would to protect your own identity. To opt out of junk mail offers, go to OptOutPreScreen.com, or call 1-888-5-OPTOUT begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-5-OPTOUT end_of_the_skype_highlighting (1-888-567-8688 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-567-8688 end_of_the_skype_highlighting) to have a name removed from direct marketing lists.
  5. Request a credit report. Request from all three credit reporting agencies a copy of the deceased’s credit report. Here’s a form with addresses from the Identity Theft Center that will help. When you get the report, check it for new or suspicious activity, look for accounts that are still open, and make sure the agency flags the report with a notice of death.
  6. Freeze their credit. The policies and fees for doing this vary by state, but they prevent any new credit being granted in the deceased’s name. Consumers Union has information about each state’s policies and exceptions. Note that this won’t prevent new credit being granted by institutions the deceased has an existing relationship with – which is why it’s so important to notify them and close those accounts.

Want more advice on protecting yourself and loved ones from identity theft? Check out 10 Top Tips For Free Identity Theft Protection.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How to Get the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance
How to Get the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance

This is the last article on understanding and shopping for car insurance that you’ll ever need.

This Is the Best Online Savings Account for 2021
This Is the Best Online Savings Account for 2021

The rate of return is just one of several reasons this account stands out.

Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off
Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off

A common behavior becomes increasingly dangerous for those who are 50 or older.

9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50
9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50

These products will instantly improve your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.