Ghosting: Identity Theft after Death
Here’s a disturbing statistic… “nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans” identities are compromised each year!!
This practice, referred to as “Ghosting,” is when thieves steal the identities of the recently deceased. Statistics show that most successful attempts at Ghosting take place at a time when a family is most vulnerable and the least likely to be monitoring the deceased person’s information… the immediate days and weeks following death. By monitoring death notices and obituaries listed in hospitals, newspapers and social media, thieves can easily collect information, such as names, addresses, date of birth, maiden name, etc. and use this information to steal the deceased’s identity.
So, if you find yourself in this situation, what can you do to protect your deceased loved one’s identity and prevent the hassle of identity theft? IDTheftCenter recommends the following:
- Be sparse with obituary details. You can list the person’s age in an obituary or death notice, but try to avoid date of birth, maiden name or other identifying details. And definitely skip the home address.
- Notify financial institutions. If there is a surviving spouse or other joint account holder, send a death certificate as soon as you can to credit card companies, banks, stock brokers, loan holders and mortgage companies. If you close any accounts, ask the institution to list it as: “Closed. Account holder is deceased.”
- Contact all credit reporting agencies. You may need to follow specific instructions for each agency and send a death certificate to each. Ask that the agency flag the person’s credit report with the following alert: “Deceased. Do not issue credit.” At the same time, request a copy of the decedent’s credit report so you know all active credit accounts that may need to be closed and any pending collections. You’ll need to do this in writing. The addresses are: Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013; Equifax Information Services LLC Office of Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348; and TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
- Check credit reports. A few weeks later, check the credit report of the person from one of the three agencies to see if there is any suspicious activity. Do the same a few months later as well.
- Alert other institutions. Report the death to the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles in an effort to take the person’s Social Security number and driver’s license out of circulation.