Identity theft is always a difficult and frustrating situation and could take many years to repair the damage done to one’s credit. However, today millions of Americans are being haunted with an even more disturbing situation: learning that a criminal is using the identity of a deceased loved one to apply for credit.
An ID Analytics study determined 2.5 million deceased Americans identities are stolen each year. Targeting the deceased is appealing to identity thieves because it can take up to six months for death records to be registered, giving thieves ample time to rack up charges. Thieves scour through obituaries to obtain the victim’s name, age and birthdate. They are then able to locate the Social Security Number through the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased Americans known as the “Death Master File.”
This could turn out to be quite a headache for surviving family members as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones. Luckily, a simple yet effective estate plan can safeguard you or your family members if identity theft after death does indeed occur.
For example, storing all important account information within your estate plan and designating a financial power of attorney to monitor your information after death will help reduce the risk of identity theft. It is also crucial to notify the proper Government agencies of one’s death right away which helps limit opportunities for identity theft occurring.
“Be proactive- plan your estate and have everything organized for your family before death so that your loved ones know exactly what needs to happen when you are gone”, said Jaburg Wilk Estate Planning attorney Michelle Lauer.” “An estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a highly effective estate plan which can reduce not only the risk of identity theft but also the hardships for your family”.