Deceased Family Member Identity Theft

This type of identity theft occurs when someone uses the personal information of a deceased person to commit fraud. Learn how to protect your loved one's legacy.

Step 1:Recognize

Red Flags of Deceased Family Member Identity Theft

It can be difficult to keep track of everything after a loved one passes away. Amidst the grief and paperwork, it’s important to also be vigilant about identity theft. Unfortunately, criminals may try to take advantage of your relative’s death to commit fraud. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • You receive calls or letters from businesses or organizations addressed to your deceased relative.
  • You see unfamiliar activity on your loved one’s credit report or financial accounts.
  • You are contacted by debt collectors for debts you know nothing about.
  • You receive a tax bill or notice from the IRS for a year in which your relative did not file a return.

Step 2:Immediate Actions

If you think someone has committed identity theft against a deceased loved one, it is important to take action right away. Here are some steps to take:

  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov from the Federal Trade Commission to file a report and create a personalized plan for recovery.
  • Send a copy of the death certificate to each credit reporting agency asking them to place a “deceased alert” on the individual’s credit report.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration and let them know the recipient has passed away.
  • Contact the police department in the deceased person’s jurisdiction if you have evidence of fraud.
  • If the thief is a relative, it may be best to seek advice from an attorney that specializes in estate or family law.

Step 3:Report

Reporting any type of cybercrime, including identity theft, is imperative to help others avoid being scammed. As a society, the more people that report online scams and fraud, the more national reporting data that is collected, and the better chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease cybercrime.

Step 4:Recover

Once you have notified the appropriate organizations, it is time to recover and reinforce your cybersecurity by implementing preventative measures.

  1. Send a copy of the death certificate to the following organizations/agencies, as applicable, and ask them to list the deceased family members accounts as “Closed: Account holder is deceased”:
    1. Internal Revenue Service
    2. Social Security Administration
    3. Credit reporting agencies
    4. Banks/Financial institutions
    5. Credit card providers
    6. Mortgage/Insurance companies
  2. Shred all documents containing the deceased family members personal information.
  3. Regularly check your deceased family member’s credit report for any suspicious activity.

TestimonialHear from Other Victims

Without Fightcybercrime.org, I don't know if I would have been able to react as quickly to protect my personal information.
Mary - Indianapolis, IN

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