The 31 Forms of Identity Theft – Deceased Fraud

#19 Deceased Fraud

It may not be what you envisioned, but apparently there can be life after death. Deceased identity theft, or “ghosting,” is both scary and surprising.

Ghosting is a form of identity theft. It occurs when someone uses the personal information of a dead person, often for monetary gain. A savvy criminal can take over bank accounts, apply for new credit cards, and even file for fraudulent tax refunds. Ghosting often happens shortly after someone dies before the death is widely known. That is because it can be months after a person dies before entities like credit reporting agencies, the Social Security Administration, and the IRS receive, share, or register death records.

Some 2.5 million identities are stolen each year from deceased individuals. And you need only look in the obituary section of a newspaper to see where identity thieves find the information they need. There, they can obtain a potential victim’s full name, maiden name, date of birth, place of birth, place of residence at death, mother’s maiden name, and even where the victim went to school and was employed.

With this valuable information, it is often not difficult to track down additional information online, such as the deceased’s home address. And given the number of data breaches involving Social Security numbers, it is possible for an identity thief to obtain that number as well, perhaps purchasing it from another criminal.

Criminals can often get away with ghosting because no one may be aware anything fraudulent is going on. The deceased cannot check their credit reports for unfamiliar activity.

Credit monitoring will not alert you to this type of fraud

 LibertyID will take the following steps for/with their members:

  • Send a copy of the death certificate to each credit reporting agency asking them to put a “deceased alert” on the individual’s credit report
  • Contact the Social Security Administration and let them know that the recipient has passed away
  • Notify the IRS
  • Contact businesses where the member’s information was misused and have to the business close the fraudulent accounts and note the presence of identity theft
  • File report with FTC
  • File a police report
  • Review credit reports with the decease’s representative to ensure there is no other types of fraud
  • Contact all creditors listed on the credit report as necessary
  • Provide credit monitoring with alerts for 12 months
  • Periodically contact the decease’s representative throughout the 12 months following resolution of their ID theft recovery case if warranted