As if losing a loved one is not hard enough, will and trust lawyers around the country have been seeing an increase in identity theft of those who have passed away. This creates considerable difficulties to the surviving family and really does add insult to injury. In order to protect your loved one’s name, take this advice; and if you suspect there has been an identity theft, you may want to reach out to a trust lawyer in Houston.
The practice of unscrupulous people using a deceased’s identity is called “ghosting,” and about 2.5 million deceased Americans’ information is being used every year. During the time shortly after death, criminals are able to use social security numbers and other information to apply for loans and credit cards, along with a variety of other misdeeds. Some even file tax returns for those who have passed away and then receive the refund!
Trust lawyers in Houston are advising family members on ways to protect the information of their deceased loved ones. Most of the criminal activity takes place within the first six months while different systems, institutions, and government entities are registering the death. You can help speed up this process and also limit thieves access to information in several ways:
· Call the Social Security Administration to report the death.
· Send copies of the death certificate (via certified mail with a return receipt) to all three of the credit-reporting bureaus, asking them to placed a “deceased alert” in the credit report.
· Send death certificates to any place the deceased may have had an account (bank, mortgage company, credit card providers, etc.) Again, have them list the individual as deceased.
· Cancel their driver’s license.
Many of the identity thieves get their information by looking through obituaries and gathering enough data to find the individual’s social security number. To limit this, make sure the obituary does not contain the kind of information that would make this easier, such as a birth date or mother’s maiden name.
A few weeks after taking care of these tasks, you will want to order copies of the deceased’s credit report to look for any activity. Do this again a few months later to ensure that things are still staying quiet.
Trust lawyers in Houston do advise that fraudulent charges made by identity thieves are generally not the responsibility of surviving family members. While this is some consolation, it does not stop the sense of injustice that comes with knowing your loved one’s name and information was used inappropriately. Taking the steps above can help to prevent this kind of crime and to catch it early if needed.