Protection from Identity Theft…After Death, by Fredrick P. Niemann, a New Jersey Estate Administration Attorney

Identity thieves can do a lot more damage than simply committing financial fraud.  Identity thieves scour obituary listings and gather personal information from genealogy websites.  Many identity thieves focus almost exclusively on stealing the identities of those who are deceased since the likelihood of detection is lower.  They can run up charges on existing accounts, open new lines of credit, steal funds from investment accounts, set up utilities accounts, get access to health care and prescription medicines, and even apply for government benefits under the deceased’s name.

What steps can you take to protect a deceased loved one’s personal information and assets?

• Immediately notify banks and creditors of the death by providing copies of the death certificate for  verification.
• Close individual accounts, The surviving spouse may be asked to close any joint accounts, which also helps reduce the  chances of identity theft.
• Contact the three main credit bureaus (TransUnion- www.transunion.com, Equifax – www.equifax.com, and Experian –  www.experian.com) and ask that credit reports be flagged as “Deceased: Do Not Issue Credit”.  Also request a copy of each  credit report so that you can be sure you did not overlook any accounts.
• Notify the Social Security Administration directly.  While funeral homes do not report deaths to the Social Security  Administration, don’t assume they will do so in a timely fashion.
• Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If you suspect fraud, file a police report and contact the company in question.  Provide a copy of the death certificate to make the process go more smoothly.

Do you have a question(s) not addressed here?  If so, contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll free at (888) 800-7442 or e-mail him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/ to schedule a consultation about your particular needs.  He welcomes your calls and inquiries and you’ll find him very approachable and easy to talk to.

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