Not even the dead are immune from identity theft and this particular type of identity theft is now on the rise. Until new regulations were enacted in 2014 scammers merely checked out the latest obituaries and then went to a free totally available data bank called the Death Master File maintained by the Social Security Administration. Using the Death Master File, the scammer was readily able to obtain the deceased person’s Social Security number which would then be used along with the information gained from the obituary to establish credit, make purchases or take out loans in the name of the deceased person. Since 2014 regulations have greatly limited the access to the Death Master File, but identity theft from the dead remains a serious problem because it is still easy for criminals to obtain Social Security numbers of dead people. Income tax identity theft using the Social Security numbers of dead people is a popular scam with income tax identity thieves because the IRS may not be alerted that the victim of the identity theft has died and is not filing an income tax return. Income tax identity theft from the dead can severely complicate the estate settlement process and threaten the deceased’s assets.
Limit the amount of personal information contained in any obituary in order to not provide information exploitable by an identity thief. Also, the executor or personal representative of the estate should contact the major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and notify them that the person is deceased and not to issue any further credit. All creditors, such as credit card companies of the deceased should also be notified of the death and the accounts closed as soon as possible.
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