Identity Theft of the Deceased
There’s an old saying that you cannot libel the dead. While that may be true, it certainly is possible for thieves to steal the identity of a deceased individual, and use it to their advantage.
Fraudsters are stealing the identity of the deceased more and more often, taking their names, addresses, bank account and credit card details, National Insurance numbers and other important information to use to their financial gain.
It can be as easy as simply taking an addressed letter off a doormat, or lifting valuable information from a published obituary. And it causes not only a lot of undue distress for a grieving family, but also a lot of wasted time and effort when it comes to sorting the whole mess out.
How it WorksIdentity theft of the deceased is easier than you might think. Detailed information from a letter or an obituary might be all a fraudster needs to access a bank account, or get personal credit from an online source.
Fraudsters can also search the newspapers for death notices, then apply for a birth certificate in that name. A birth certificate can open the door to untold fraudulent opportunities, such as obtaining a fake passport and driving licence. Nobody will know the real owner of the birth certificate has passed on.
Criminals may also view a home for sale if the owner is deceased, or visit an estate sale, and look for information left lying around that can help them obtain a false identity. Although the credit rating of the deceased is obviously not an issue, the problem is still very distressing for relatives left to deal with it on their own.
Ghosting“Ghosting “is a type of identity theft where someone steals the identity of an individual close to their own age, and either takes on their identity or, in rare cases, takes on their own role in society.
Ghosting is based on the premise that government agencies are not able to accurately share information with one another in a timely fashion, which means, for example, that a benefits agency may not have received information that someone has died.
Fraudsters who practice ghosting often want not to profit from someone’s financial situation, but to take on a completely new identity and start anew. This could be because they have a criminal record, or because they simply want a fresh start in life due to bankruptcy or other reasons.
Ways to Protect Identity of the DeceasedContacting the major credit agencies and having them put a “deceased” flag on your loved one’s account can help stop identity theft of the deceased in its tracks. This can also help a spouse avoid trouble in future if bank accounts were joint.
Some people also advise avoiding a lengthy obituary, which make public personal information about the deceased, and notifying police immediately if you notice anything suspicious concerning your loved one’s affairs after they have gone.
There are several other companies you can use - at no cost whatsoever – to help protect the identity of the deceased from criminals. You will also save yourself the unpleasant event of having post drop on the doormat for someone who is no longer with you. Contact the following for help:
- Deceased Preference Service. Free and completely secure, this service exists purely to stop identity theft of the deceased. The company estimates that 40 million pieces of mail were sent to deceased individuals in 2009 – that’s a lot of unwanted post!
- The Bereavement Register. This service exists largely to stop painful letters addressed to the deceased from showing up on your doorstep. Registering the deceased’s name and address with the Register is free, and will stop companies from sending you unwanted mail advertising goods and services which are no longer needed.
- The Mailing Register. This free service allows the consumer to choose what kind of post he or she wants to receive, so in effect takes you – or loved ones – off mailing lists you no longer want to be on. Be wary of anyone contacting you following the death of a loved one and asking you to pay for this service; it is free, and such calls or contacts are scams.