Even Obituaries Can Lead to Identity Theft

If there’s one constant in the world of identity theft, it’s that nothing seems to be off-limits for who is targeted or how personal information is pilfered. Common scams are still a constant threat, but various other avenues can give bad actors everything they need to commit fraud. Some situations where you might expect even criminals to display a bit of decency are now only another opportunity to steal sensitive information. 

Obituaries are a good example of this and knowing how these thoughtful tributes potentially play right into the hands of scammers can give you the upper hand in thwarting their heartless attempts to steal the identity of a recently passed loved one. 


Believe it or not, it is possible to steal the identity of a deceased person, and, for obvious reasons, this is generally known as “ghosting” or “ghost fraud.” LibertyID has deceased fraud on our list of the 31 forms of identity theft, and it occurs more often than you might think. Over two million people have their identities stolen each year after they have passed away. This is an eye-catching statistic for anyone unfamiliar with how often this type of scam occurs. 

Obituaries are an Easy Target

Criminals and scammers often prey on human nature to their advantage. The emotions involved with the death of a loved one or family member can make those closest to the individual let down their guard. Obituaries often offer valuable personal information that criminals can use in various ways. And while some of this information might seem mundane, something as simple as a middle or maiden name can provide thieves with what they need to unlock the vaults to future fraud. 

A standard obituary tells a brief story of a deceased person. It highlights important events, such as a place of birth or last residence. It provides the history of the person in terms of where they worked or went to school. It also might list names of relatives or aspect of their community involvement that the person participated in. A few paragraphs on a page are too brief of a synopsis to encompass any individual life for those that are interested in the deceased person, but the information that is found in a pamphlet or the local newspaper holds immense prospects for the bad actors looking to steal identities. 

Skilled scammers don’t need much information to run with, and what seems simple in the obituary is enough of a start for them to attempt fraud. Couple that with a date of birth and other information unique to a particular person, and you can see how this form of fraud takes shape. That maiden name or college mascot might just be a security question to an online password. A full name and address can be used to sniff out a social security number or other even more valuable information. The process continues with access to all this data, and identity thieves can run the gamut of potentially fraudulent activities. 

Can Deceased Individuals Really Have Their Identities Stolen? 

If you have never heard of ghosting or deceased fraud before, it might be difficult to believe that it’s possible to steal the identity of someone who is no longer living. But there is actually quite a bit a scammer can do with access to personal information, whether the victim is living or dead. Instances of fraud on deceased individuals can be a little trickier to spot because the victim is not around to notice the signs or be directly affected. Even though the person has passed on, identity thieves can use their personal information to use their identity as if they are still living. It’s an alarming form of fraud that happens nearly every day. 

How Deceased Fraud Plays Out

Once scammers have effectively stolen an identity using personal information that may be found in an obituary or anywhere else, they can commit fraud in a number of ways. The stolen identity can be used to access the financial accounts of the deceased individual. Funds can be quickly emptied from any savings, checking, or retirement accounts that the person held upon passing. The thieves can also use the information to open new credit card accounts or apply for loans. They can also attempt to secure a bogus tax refund or apply for and use health care insurance coverage. 

The stealing of funds can obviously impact the grieving loved ones of the deceased, but the other possible outcomes also have detrimental effects. If left unchecked or unnoticed, the deceased identity can be used indefinitely, or at least until a relative or the government becomes aware of the fraud. The threat actors involved might see it as a victimless crime but draining a retirement account or taking out a fraudulent loan can have dramatic effects on the surviving family members or estate of the deceased individual. 

What Should You Do? 

This post’s purpose is not intended to make you think twice about posting an obituary for a loved one, but rather the purpose of this post is to make you aware of ghosting and deceased fraud to reduce the chances of it occurring. LibertyID can help you limit this type of fraud by taking care of certain steps to make it much more difficult for thieves to steal the deceased’s identity. 

In cases of deceased fraud, LibertyID will send a copy of the death certificate to each credit reporting agency, notify the IRS, contact the Social Security Administration, and file a report with the FTC. We can also help you deal with an instance of deceased fraud by contacting businesses where the person’s information was misused and close any open accounts and by staying in contact with the deceased’s representatives for 12 months following the resolution of their recovery case. 

You never know when or where identity theft will occur. Having tools in place to deal with the situation alongside a professional team skilled in identity theft recovery and restoration will help you to navigate a ghosting incident or any other type of fraud you or a loved one might experience. 

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.