Scammers are out there and even death isn’t enough to keep some slimy individuals from trying to make a quick buck.  If a loved one recently died, it is important to remain vigilant to guard their identity, protect against unfounded claims, and even protect their home.  Even though your family is grieving, it is important to remember that there are some criminals who prey on this particular situation.

Some examples of scams on the recently deceased and/or their loved ones include:

  • Making unfounded claims for money they are owed and/or claiming debts due to them for services performed.
  • Attempts by a collection agency to collect a debt from a surviving relative, even if the decedent doesn’t have the funds in their estate to pay the debt.
  • Fraud by someone who knows the decedent – a family member, business associate, friend, or caregiver with access to personal information or valuable belongings.
  • Stealing the decedent’s identity – and then racking up debts in the decedent’s name.
  • Burglarizing the decedent’s home or the home of loved ones attending the funeral services.
  • Rifling through someone’s mail and sending in pre-authorized credit offers.

Some ways to protect the deceased person’s identity and property include:

  • If you decided to publish an obituary keep the biographical info (age, birthdate, maiden name) to a minimum.  That information can be easily used to help a thief open new accounts or even access old ones that have yet to be closed.
  • Freeze the credit report and inform the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) of the decedent’s death by phone and mail (send a copy of the death certificate).
  • Notify financial institutions and insurance companies of the death.
  • Notify Social Security and DMV.
  • Notify the decedent’s employer and any professional associations to which the decedent belonged.
  • If you are contacted by a collection agency or someone claiming a debt against the estate, forward the information to the personal representative.  Do not pay the debt from your own funds or provide any of your personal information.
  • The sad reality is that some burglars will scan the obituaries and use the information for the service as a time to rob the decedent’s home (or even the homes of relatives).  Be vigilant in securing the decedent’s home and valuable property.  Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.
  • Watch out for social media.  In this day and age, a lot of people like to post online about a loved one’s passing and use online forums to share their grief, stories, and tributes.  This information can be mined for data, as well as the decedent’s own social media accounts.  Consider shutting down the decedent’s accounts.
  • Shred financial, legal, and other important documents when you are cleaning out someone’s home.  Many people leave their sensitive documents unprotected around the house, but when disposing of them it is important to consider that someone’s identity could be stolen.
  • If you become aware of identity theft, notify the police immediately and file a report.  The report may be necessary to help clear the fraudulent activity.
  • Monitor the decedent’s accounts for strange activity.  The executor/trustee should take control of the accounts quickly to prevent unauthorized or fraudulent access.
  • Handle the decedent’s debts and liabilities in a timely manner.

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