By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Financial Planner™
If your mother died, and her identity was stolen after she died and before she was in the ground, it could cause serious problems. If you are the executor and responsible for fixing this mess, your brother and sister may blame you and hold you responsible.
Not only is identity theft an increasing problem for the living, but, recently, there have been numerous reports about criminals who specialize stealing the identities of the recently deceased.
Crooks are not only cleaning out the homes of the deceased while loved ones are at the funeral, now they are stealing their financial assets as well.
The dearly departed are vulnerable to identity theft because the family is in mourning and not paying attention to the deceased person’s finances.
Few financial planners, funeral directors or estate attorneys are familiar with the problem. Few estate executors have sufficient financial experience themselves or seasoned advisors to help them avoid this problem.
Identity theft is probably the last thing on your mind when a loved one dies. Both my wife and I have been the executor of our mother’s estates and understood these issues. There are a few simple things you can do to discourage identity thieves and to minimize the chances that a recently deceased relative's estate will be victimized.
When a person dies, it can take several months for all three credit reporting agencies to be notified. Between the date of death and the notification, fraudsters have an opportunity to steal. Once you have a death certificate, do not assume that the credit agencies know. You should notify them yourself - ASAP.
Also, send official copies of the death certificate — not photocopies — to all entities where your loved one had a financial relationship. I suggest that you contact each creditor, each insurance company, each bank, brokerage house, the Social Security Administration and any pension issuer.
Look for suspicious activities in the months that follow. Pull a credit report of the deceased and purchase a credit monitoring service for a year following death.
If you are faced with this unfortunate and untimely situation, contact me for further help.