Retirement Watch Lighthouse Logo
Retirement Watch Lighthouse Logo

How to Avoid Scams on the Recently Departed

Last update on: Oct 17 2017

People do a lot these days to protect themselves from identity theft. Few people, however, take steps to prevent the identity theft that is likely to occur after someone passes away.

That time can be ideal for identity thieves. Loved ones aren’t likely to be focused on the possibility of identity theft. In the estate settling process there is likely to be a period of time when there is little of the monitoring of financial accounts that is needed to prevent theft.

An ID thief can scan death notices to spot situations when someone’s finances won’t be guarded for a while. Bills can be run up or accounts drained before anyone catches on. The result might be a further delay in settling the estate.

The easiest way to prevent ID theft of a recently deceased loved one is to notify the credit reporting firms that the person is deceased. That freezes their records at the reporting agencies. Any creditor that asks for the records will be notified that the person is deceased.

The notification is not as easy as one might like it to be.

Credit reporting firms have to be wary of false reports of deaths. These are not unusual, and can leave a person without access to credit or money until the situation is cleared up. To reduce those situations, credit reporting firms require that all death notices be in writing. The writing must include the death notice or other proof of death. The writer also should enclose a power of attorney or authorization of executorship proving the legal right to act for the deceased. Merely being a relative is not sufficient for the credit agency to take action.

Credit reporting firms say few people actually provide death notices. The firms have to rely on Social Security’s death registry. That can leave a large time gap between when a person dies and when the firms know about it.

If you suspect someone stole the identity of a deceased loved one, notify a credit reporting firm immediately. This can be done over the Internet or the telephone. The firm will immediately put a fraud alert on the account and automatically notify the other credit reporting firms. Then the firm will let you know how the problem and damage can be cleared up.



Log In

Forgot Password