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Important Steps to Take to Ensure that Your Deceased Loved One Is Not a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft seems to be the new crime of the century, and when someone passes away, they often become an easy and unidentifiable candidate for identity theft. Family members may become unguarded and feel that since their loved one has passed, their identity does not need to be protected. However, the truth is, the deceased tend to be a prime target for identity theft.

Obituaries often release a lot of personal information regarding a decedent. This can become a major source for thieves to locate unsuspecting victims. Thieves are able to get the name of your loved one, the county in which they passed away, and the names of their family members. This makes it easy for the criminal to look up the court record of the decedent.

When you probate your loved one’s estate, the decedent’s name, social security number, and last address all become public record.

Here are some important measures to take when your loved one passes away to help protect your loved one from identity theft.

  • Notify the Social Security Administration of your loved one’s passing.
  • Notify the three major credit reporting agencies that your loved one has passed [Equifax at (800) 846-5279, Experian at (888) 397-3742, and TransUnion at (800) 888-4213]. This will protect new accounts from being opened in your loved one’s name.[1]
  • Request a copy of your loved one’s credit report and call all credit card companies your loved one had accounts with and cancel the accounts, even if the account has not been used in years and there is no balance.
  • Cut up credit cards.
  • When cleaning out old documents, make sure that you properly dispose of sensitive information by shredding it.
  • Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of your loved one’s passing if your loved one had an active driver’s license or identification card. This will protect your loved one’s identification from being used falsely.
  • Make sure that your loved one’s mail is secured by notifying the Post Office of a forwarding address.

If you suspect that your deceased loved one has been a victim of identity theft, contact your local police department, the Office of Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 438-4338. You can also contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271.



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David Wingate is an estate planning and elder law attorney at Estate and Elder Planning by David Wingate. The Estate and Elder Planning office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick, Washington and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

Notice: this Blog is published as a free service of the Estate and Elder Planning by David Wingate. The information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific questions, please consult with one of our experienced attorneys. We encourage you to share this newsletter with anyone you think may be interested.

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