Identity Theft After Death

Apparently death does not stop the potential for identity theft. An excellent website of the State of California Department of Justice (oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/deceased) offered advice to combat identify theft of a deceased loved one’s social security identification.

Here is some of the information provided by the website:

“Identity theft can victimize the dead.

Identity thieves can strike even after death. An identity thief’s use of a deceased person’s Social Security number may create problems for family members.”  This type of theft is particularly traumatic as the family deals not only with the grief of death, but also with the possibility of financial problems.

The article continues about details of what happens to a person’s Social Security identification after death.

“What happens to your Social Security number after you die? The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a national file of reported deaths for the purpose of paying appropriate benefits.”

According to the article – Some of the information included in the reported death is the name of the deceased; the state of their last known residence; birthdate; date of death and zip code of the last lump sum payment.

Further, there is some advice on the website about the potential for fraud using a deceased person’s Social Security information:

“The SSA generally receives reports of death from a family member or a funeral home. Sometimes delays in reporting can provide time for identity thieves to collect enough personal information to open credit accounts or take other fraudulent actions using the deceased’s information”. (my emphasis)

What steps can be taken to help prevent theft of the Social Security identification?

“ To prevent this from happening, a surviving spouse or other authorized individual, such as an executor, can notify the credit bureaus. This will ensure that the deceased’s files are flagged with a “deceased” notation”.

What are some of the signals that a deceased person’s identification is being used fraudulently? The website explains:

“Signs of possible identity theft include calls from a creditor or collection agency on an account opened or used in the deceased’s name after death. If you discover such signs, contact the affected creditor or collection agency in writing, explaining that the account was opened or used fraudulently”.

Notifying the ‘big three’ credit agencies in writing of the death and following their protocol may help to avoid the theft of a deceased person’s social security identification.

It is apparent that we must use constant vigilance in preventing identity theft…even after death.

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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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