Preventing Identity Theft of the Deceased
Identity theft of the deceased is so wrong, and so easy, thanks in part to the availability of public records. In the 1990s, a provision in a federal welfare reform law created a loophole allowing swindlers to obtain Social Security numbers of the recently deceased.
Some states’ records and statistics registries include Social Security numbers on all certified death certificates. And for $18, you or anyone else can obtain a death certificate.
Experian, one of the three largest credit bureaus, was asked, “My wife has died. Should I give Experian the details, to prevent her name being used for identity fraud?”
Experian responded, “It is certainly a good idea to alert Experian and the other credit reference agencies to your wife’s passing. Remarkably, some fraudsters do target the identities of the recently deceased. We will check to make sure all her credit agreements have been closed down and also make it clear on our records that she has passed away.” For more details on how to report the death of a relative to prevent social security scams, lease read Experian’s advice HERE.
Deaths are generally reported to the Social Security administration in a relatively timely fashion, but not always. As far as I can tell, there is no IRS form designed specifically for this purpose, although the IRS does demand “a final accounting,” a responsibility that falls to the survivors or executor. When a taxpayer dies, a new taxpaying entity—the taxpayer’s estate——is born to ensure no taxable income falls through the cracks.
The three credit bureaus maintain a list of the deceased based on data from the Social Security Administration. But it can take months for these bureaus to update their databases with the latest social security information and prevent identity theft. By contacting the credit agencies directly, you can report a death with confidence that the information will be recorded immediately.