About 2.5 million identities are stolen each year from victims who are deceased.
The practice of stealing identities from deceased persons is commonly called “ghosting” and represents a significant threat to the surviving family members. This issue strikes particularly close to home at the moment;
When a loved one passes away it can be difficult to think about identity safety, but a few simple steps can prevent huge headaches down the road. It is my hope that others may help from this research.
These BBB guidelines are suggested for deaths at any age:
- Obtain at least 12 copies of the official death certificate as soon as it becomes available. It may be possible to photocopy the original, but remember that death records are public and some organizations may ask for more proof.
- If there is a surviving spouse or another sort of joint account holder, make sure to immediately let credit card companies, banks, stock brokers, loan/lien holders and mortgage companies of the know about the death.
- The executor/surviving spouse will need to discuss any outstanding debts by either transferring or closing accounts; if accounts are closed, make sure they are listed as: “Closed. Account holder is deceased.”
- Contact all relevant financial institutions that may need to be informed of the death and make sure to follow the correct ways. Generally, it is best to send all pertinent information in the first letter to the agency—sent via certified mail with return receipt requested, as this will speed up processing:
- Name and Social Security number of deceased
- Last known address
- Last five years of addresses
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Request copies of the decedent’s credit reports, which will show any remaining active accounts that still need to be closed and ask an alert be placed on the name to tell potential creditors to not issue any new credit.
A death in the family can be hard enough, don’t let a stolen identity make it worse.
– Adam Harkness, BBB Washington, Oregon and Alaska