Post-mortem identity theft is real
When a loved one passes, the last thing someone thinks about is what to do with their identity. The elderly and dead are often targeted at victims of identity theft, made easier in the era of technology, making it essential for someone to complete essential steps to prevent this from occurring, especially important when the deceased is a business owner.
NextAdvisor.com Editor Julie Myhre has offered six steps below in her own words that you should immediately complete when a loved one passes to protect their identity. It feels morbid to think in this way, but this problem is becoming increasingly common, but it doesn’t have to happen to your family.
Step Zero: acquiring certificates
Before completing any of the following steps, loved ones need to acquire at least 12 official copies of the death certificate. There may be an extra fee for each copy, however all of the agencies responsible for noting the death will need official copies to verify the death of the person, and it can help with identity theft protection.
Step One: Notify the Social Security Administration
The first step is to contact the Social Security Administration because the majority of a person’s identity is connected to their social security number, and alerting the Social Security Administration will get the deceased’s personal information added to the Death Master File or an official list of the deceased maintained by the Social Security Administration. Also, if the deceased was eligible for social security benefits, then the family or executor of the estate would want to get the benefits immediately redirected to the rightful heir.
Before a family member or executor of the estate contacts the Social Security Administration, they’ll need to gather some information about the deceased person — including the deceased’s social security number, date of birth, date of death and address. Once all the information is collected, a family member or executor of the estate should call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It’s important to note that family members or executors of the estate are not always required to report the death to the Social Security Administration because the funeral director also has the ability to report the death. Be sure to have a discussion to reporting the death with the funeral director to verify who will be responsible for this step.
Step Two: Alert all three credit bureaus
The next thing family members or executors of the estate should do to delete the deceased person’s identity is to contact all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Before calling, family members or executors of the estate should make sure that they have the deceased’s full name, social security number, date of birth, date of death, last known address and their last five years of addresses.
Each of the bureaus has specific requirements to mark a credit holder as deceased, so it’s best to call each bureau prior to sending the official death certificate to find out what the specific requirements are for that specific bureau. Once all the necessary information is gathered, the family members or executor of the estate can then mail it to the individual bureaus.
Step Three: Void the deceased’s driver’s license
Since driver’s licenses contain a lot of personal information, it’s essentially to call the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to void their driver’s license. It’s best to have personal information — including the deceased’s social security number, date of birth, date of death and address — about the deceased on hand, yet the requirements for each DMV differs depending on the state in which the deceased lived. Call or visit the website of the state’s DMV to learn more about voiding a driver’s license in that state.
Step Four: Contact every bank and financial institution the deceased did business with
In today’s world, people bank with numerous banks or financial institutions, so it’s essential for identity theft protection for family members or executors of the estate to contact every bank and financial institution that the deceased did business with. Make sure each account is closed and the bank or financial institution is aware that the person is deceased.
It’s essential to also contact any financial institutions or bank that the deceased person had a credit card, mortgage, personal loans or any other debt. If the deceased has unpaid debt, then the spouse, someone with a power of attorney or the executor of the estate will be responsible for sorting it out with each individual bank and financial institution.
Step Five: Alert insurance and annuity companies
Once a person dies, insurance companies sometimes do not know of the death until a family member or executor of the estate calls to alert them. If the person had life insurance and annuity, disability insurance, automotive insurance or a relationship with a mutual benefit company, then a family member or executor of the estate should be sure to also inform those companies of the death.
Step Six: Cancel any membership-orientated agencies
The final step for deleting the identity of the deceased is to contact every company or institution that the deceased had a membership with. This can be the most time-consuming step because a family member or executor of the estate must call or contact grocery stores, health or athletic clubs, libraries, alumni clubs, professional organizations, as well as rotary or lions organizations. It’s also essential to contact any professional licensing bodies if the person had a career that required a professional license — such as a doctor, real estate agent, lawyer or cosmetologist.
It’s important to note that there might be other required steps if the deceased person was a military veteran or not a U.S. citizen. Family members or executors of the estate of a deceased veteran should alert the Veteran’s Administration by calling 1-800-827-1000. Family members or executor of the estate of a deceased non-U.S. citizen should alert the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the death by calling 1-800-375-5283.
Some family members or executors of the estate choose to have the deceased’s personal information added to the Deceased Do Not Contact List, which is maintained by the Direct Marketing Association, for a $1 fee. This list ensures that the deceased person will be placed in a do not contact file. In order to add someone to the list, a family member or executor of the estate will need to provide the deceased person’s name, street address, phone number and email address. Deceased people can be added to the Deceased Do Not Contact List by filling out and submitting the online form here.
Grieving is complicated enough, and with technology, hackers can easily lift a loved one’s identity, especially when they’re no longer around to defend themselves. Taking these steps can help with some of the technicalities involved in protecting your loved one’s identity even after life.