When a loved one passes away, there are so many things to do in the midst of grief. The last thing on a grieving mind is the risk of identity theft of the person who has recently passed away. Sadly, hackers have reached a new low by taking advantage of such a sorrowful time.
Identity theft hackers have been using information from hospitals and obituaries to steal a deceased person’s identity and file a fraudulent tax return. According to an AARP article, “With a name, address and birth date in hand, they can illicitly purchase the person’s Social Security number on the Internet for as little as $10.”
The term for this ugly practice is commonly referred to as “ghosting” because it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus, and the Social Security Administration to register death records. This gives the “ghosting” hackers plenty of time to cause a lot of damage. Thankfully, the surviving family members are not necessarily responsible for the financial destruction.
To make it even worse, an article from ABC News warns of a “disturbing pattern of identity theft of financial information belonging to people who were dying. It’s easy to see how that could happen, since people who are gravely ill can easily lose track of the details of their finances.” Therefore, it is always important to help protect the identity of a loved one, especially one who is ill as well as the recently deceased.
The AARP article lists suggested steps to take after a loved one’s death, such as not including a date of birth or any personal identifiers in an obituary and mailing a death certificate copy to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Consumer Action provides a more extensive list of steps to take to protect the identity of a deceased person.
If you would like to discuss identity theft protection with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, please call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to schedule a complimentary consultation.