Each year, 2.5 million deceased American citizen identities are stolen, according to the fraud prevention firm ID Analytics. Scammers use this information to apply for loans, open credit card accounts and file fraudulent tax returns.
It’s easier to obtain a deceased citizen’s information than you think. Fraudsters gather personal information by simply reading obituaries. The more information given, the easier it is to take the person’s identity. Most obituaries contain a home address, maiden name, birthdate, kid’s names, etc. This information is all that’s needed to illegally purchase a person’s social security number online.
Make sure that this doesn’t happen to a loved one! You can protect their identity by following these simple tips.
- Do not list their exact birthdate in the obituary. Instead, list their age.
- Do not list the mother’s maiden name.
- Do not list their home address.
- Use certified mail with “return receipt” and send copies of death certificates to each major credit reporting bureau with a deceased alert on their credit report. Follow up a few weeks later by checking their credit report for any odd activity.
- Notify Social Security of the death as soon as possible.
- For any joint accounts, remove the deceased’s name. Contact all banks, investment, insurance or mortgage companies and tell them to mark the account “closed” due to death.
- Cancel the driver’s license.
These tips can greatly reduce the chance of a thief stealing your loved one’s identity. Visit the Wisconsin Senior Medicare Patrol’s website at wisconsinsmp.org for more information on current frauds and scams.