Most of us are aware of the modern scourge of identity theft – either as victim or by the numerous articles and consumer alerts on the subject. What many may not be aware of is the new frontier of identity theft – stealing the identity of deceased persons.
Identity thieves purportedly watch the obituary pages, looking for enough information to open credit card accounts or otherwise engage in identity theft. Since the decedent isn't around, the responsibility for protecting the decedent's estate from such theft falls to the decedent's executor or personal representative.
There are some things that the executor/personal representative (or the attorney for the estate) can do to reduce the risk or effects of identity theft. These include:
- Closing all known charge card and credit card accounts as soon as possible;
- Advise the applicable state Department of Motor Vehicles of the death, and request that no duplicate drivers' licenses be issued;
- Send copies of the decedent's death certificate to the big three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax);
- Limit personal information in the obituary that is useful to identity thieves, such as addresses and dates of birth.
When identity theft is suspected, obtaining a credit report from the credit reporting bureaus will confirm most instances and provide information to limit damages.