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The dreaded phone call came in on a Friday after work; I needed to go to Arizona, as my mom was declining, quickly. The long flight home, gathering the family, and making the decision to move my mom to hospice was hard.  My mom wasn’t in hospice very long, as her time came quickly.  The minutes, hours, and days after her death were like a roller coaster ride.  During this time of grieving, you are planning a funeral and begin notification to settle her estate.  This time of mourning is a convenient time for scammers to strike.

Over 2.5 million identities are stolen each year from deceased Americans.  It’s called ghosting and it’s among the most reprehensible of all scams.  All a scammer need is a name, address, and birthdate to illegally purchase a social security number and gather the information via an obituary or social media.    Ghosting scammers can pull this type of scam for months, as the dead and their families don’t check the deceased person’s credit reports.

Scammers get their information from

•    Obituaries

•    Hospitals

•    Funeral homes

•    Social media

How can you stop identity theft after a loved one passes away? Some basic precautions will help. Don’t list birthdate, maiden name, address, and other identifying information in an obituary or on social media. Monitor the person’s credit via one of the credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, a few weeks after death and then a few months later. Contact and notify the following agencies: Social Security Administration – The funeral home will submit a death certificate to SSA, Department of Motor Vehicles, financial institutions, credit card companies, and utility companies.

Be sure to shred any documentation, such as a bank, credit card, medical, statement information. And dispose of left-over medication properly and check with your state for the info.

Make sure you order at least ten certified death certificates, as various institutions will not accept a copy of the document.

Losing a loved one is a time of deep sorrow and grief.  The grieving process varies from person-to-person and takes an emotional toll on those left behind.  Don’t let scammers make this time even harder.  Remember to protect your loved one after they are gone. 

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Written by Roseann Freitas

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