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6 Ways to Prevent Obituary Identity Theft



The last thing you need while grieving the death of a loved one is to learn that a crook has stolen the person’s identity to fraudulently open credit cards or access the deceased’s financial accounts. Yet obituary identity theft happens frequently, thanks to personal details unwittingly provided by well-meaning family members trying to write a fitting tribute.

In the midst of shock and grief, most family members probably don’t give much thought to the fact that identity thieves often haunt the obituary pages looking for their next victims. Before you pen a loved one’s obituary, make sure you take these steps to foil identity thieves looking to cash in on a deceased loved one’s good credit.

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1. Use certain personal details sparingly

A future relative rooting around your family tree a hundred years from now would probably be thrilled to find out your mother’s maiden name. But an identity thief coming across the answer to that common security question will be equally excited. Other details identity thieves can use include date of birth and high school attended, along with work history and specific military service details such as regiment number.

Instead, provide less specific details such as only the year of birth without the month and date or only first names of family members.

Find out: This Is How Common Identity Theft Really Is

2. Safely store essential documents

Major credit bureau Experian recommends securing and safely storing your loved one’s essential documents, including:

  • Will, powers of attorney and trust information
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license and passport
  • Insurance policies
  • Birth and marriage certificates and divorce papers
  • Bank, investment, retirement, credit card and other financial accounts
  • Account passwords
  • Death certificate (make multiple certified copies to send if requested by financial institutions and creditors)

Find out: 5 Signs you Might Be a Victim of Identity Theft

3. Report the death to government entities

Contact the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Department of motor vehicles in your loved one’s state to report the death. Notifying these entities can prevent fraudsters from engaging in Social Security and tax fraud, along with other types of identity theft.

Find out: The Top 5 Identity Theft Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

4. Contact creditors

Notify your loved one’s credit card issuers, banks, or other loan provider that your loved one is deceased. You will probably also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate.

Find out: How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter for Debt Collectors

5. Contact major credit bureaus

When someone dies, it’s important to report the death to each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. That way, each credit bureau will flag your loved one’s credit file so nobody can open a credit card or take out a loan under your deceased loved one’s name.

Find out: What You Need to Know About Credit Bureaus

6. Monitor your loved one’s credit

Request and review a free copy of your deceased loved one’s credit report from Look for unfamiliar, new or suspicious accounts. If you see a suspicious account, report it to the creditor and all three credit bureaus immediately. Check again by ordering a new report in six months to make sure no fraudulent activity exists.

Find out: What Is Credit Monitoring and How Does It Work

Warning signs of identity theft

If you receive a call from an alleged government agency, collection agency, insurance agent or other entity claiming that your deceased loved one owes money, be careful. That communication could be a red flag that your loved one’s identity was stolen.

The same goes for unsolicited texts or emails offering federal funds for someone who died from COVID-19. Always hang up and investigate any caller that pressures you to pay immediately.

Writing an obituary for someone you love can be an emotional and difficult task. Do your best to pay tribute to the person’s life — without giving details that could help a crook profit from your loss.

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