The passing of a loved one is a devastating event often leaving family members grieving for an extended period of time. Heartless Identity Thieves, however, will not hesitate to steal a deceased Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for financial gain.
Suppressing a deceased person’s credit files will protect them from accounts being opened in their names or identities being used by criminals.
Once available, obtain copies of the Death Certificate. These can be obtained for a nominal fee from the funeral home, hospice or from Vital Records.
You will need multiple copies, so only send originals to financial accounts, send photo copies to other creditors if possible. Keep a detailed list of each company or creditor that you provide a Death Certificate to.
General List of Companies to notify:
Insurance Companies (Health, Life, Auto, Employer and Credit Card Ins.)
Department of Motor Vehicles; Cancel the driver’s license or identification card on record
Utility Companies listed in the deceased name: Gas and Power Company, Phone Company.
Social Security Administration
Credit Reporting Agencies: Send (certified mail receipt required) a copy of death certificate, and proof of executorship or marriage to each agency.
Equifax: Office of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian: P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022
ChexSystems: Consumer Relations, 7805 Hudson Rd., Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125
TeleCheck, 5251 Westheimer Houston, Texas 77056
For all accounts notified, request that a statement of “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit” be placed on the deceased’s credit report. List a phone number of either the surviving spouse or the executor to be notified regarding any attempts for credit. Request a copy of the deceased’s credit report to determine what credit accounts are reported as still open.
If you find identity theft has occurred, begin with the following steps:
File an Identity Theft Police Report
Provide evidence of the fraud, such as a collection notice, other bills, or a credit report.
Notify the creditor by certified mail of the Deceased Fraudulent Account and request “Letters of Clearance” for the fraudulent debt. It’s ok to include a copy of the death certificate, if requested.
Remember that Scammers watch Obituaries! Include minimal information in the obituary. Giving out too much information, including exact birth date, middle names and maiden names, can make it easier for thieves to impersonate the Deceased.
A good rule would be to have the obituary ‘draft’ reviewed by a family member or close friend to help with not providing to much personal information. It may be difficult to remove PII once it’s placed on the internet. Being prepared will reduce the undue emotional stress of dealing with Deceased Identity Theft.
If necessary consult a licensed estate attorney – even if you decide not to hire one.
For more useful information regarding Identity Theft, have a look at these other articles.
Mark is an ICFE CITRMS® Certified Identity Theft Advocate. His experience includes over 20 years in Financial Crimes, with his specialty (and his favorite) being his dedication to helping the victims of Identity Theft.