Oct 17, 2023
3 Tips to Protect a Deceased Person’s Identity
When a loved one dies, it always seems too soon. The grieving process is difficult, and when you factor in the need to sort through a lifetime of finances, it can be very stressful. This is the time when many are vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. You might think that after someone dies, their identity can no longer be stolen, but it’s an opportune time for fraudsters to exploit the situation. Here are three steps you can take to protect the identity of a deceased loved one:
1. Immediately notify relevant companies that the person has died
An important first step that’s often overlooked is to immediately notify all relevant companies that the account holder is deceased. This includes all banks, brokerage firms, credit card companies and mortgage companies where the person is listed as an account owner. Taking this step will flag the account and limit the number of transactions that can occur after someone passes. If the person has been collecting pension benefits, it may be helpful to notify the appropriate parties so any pension payments don’t go astray at the hands of a fraudster. Each company will have their own requirements after someone dies, and they will outline these steps for the survivors. Don’t delay taking this step out of fear that all questions must be answered right away. There will be plenty of time to gather the documentation needed, and for the surviving spouse or executor to fill out all the paperwork.
2. Work with credit agencies
One of the most common ways fraudsters exploit someone’s identity is by taking out a credit card or loan in their name. Each of the three credit agencies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) report on existing credit cards and loans for individuals. Notify each credit agency of the person’s death and request a copy of their credit report to identify any existing accounts and loan balances. Loans can be one of the biggest blind spots because fraudsters can rack up large balances before a monthly statement arrives in the mail and it’s too late to stop it.
3. Change passwords for accounts
Take the simple step of updating passwords. So many accounts are linked to each other, and this helps to prevent against all sorts of identity theft. The surviving spouse, executor or person in charge of the estate should then monitor the deceased person’s email account to note any activity and notifications from other institutions. Also regarding accounts, be sure to properly shut down all of the deceased person’s social media accounts so there is less opportunity for a fraudster to gather potentially valuable information about them. The more details they can obtain regarding the deceased, the stronger the chances that scam artists may misappropriate that info for criminal activity.
Even in death, a person can still be a victim of identity theft or other related crimes, and it just makes the grieving process more difficult or possibly traumatic. Take these three steps to protect the identity of your deceased loved one from fraudsters, and you’ll likely be able to avoid many potential cybersecurity risks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave is a Partner, Wealth Advisor in our Itasca, IL, office. He enjoys bringing clarity to the big-picture questions while filtering out a lot of the distractions. Drawing on over a decade of experience as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Dave is able to help clients balance the financial implications along with the emotional considerations when making important decisions. Dave joined legacy firm BDF in 2017 and served on the executive team.
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