Identity Theft of the Deceased: 21st Century Grave-Robbing

9:12 pm Asset Protection, Estate Planning

Estate 122x150 Identity Theft of the Deceased: 21st Century Grave RobbingA new study by ID Analytics detailed in TIME magazine this week has found that as many as 2.5 million deceased Americans have their identities stolen each year.  According to the research, nearly 800,000 cases involved thieves using the stolen identities to open lines of credit and apply for cell phone service.  In another 1.6 million cases, criminals used Social Security numbers belonging to both dead and dying people.

There are steps you can take to ensure you and your family members do not fall victim to these schemes, including:

Look for trouble – if a family member enters a nursing home or assisted living facility, be sure you know who has access to their financial information – bank accounts, credit cards, etc.

Notify state agencies – when a family member dies, be sure the executor or estate planning attorney notifies the proper state agencies so the death is on record.  This makes it less likely that thieves will be able to improperly use their ID.

Identify fraud early – it is important to keep in touch with the estate’s executor or administrator since identity thieves can quickly run up debts in the deceased’s name.  If a creditor files a claim against the estate, the executor will be the first to know.  If the fraud was perpetrated prior to death, you will need to document the nature of the fraud.

Document online presence – be sure to keep a list of email and social media account and passwords up to date, and store it with other estate planning documents.  When someone dies, a survivor should be designated for the job of closing down those accounts.

Let our Costa Mesa law offices help you get started by contacting us today.

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