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5 Tips to Protect Your Deceased Relative's Identity

By Guest Writer on September 28, 2012 6:55 AM

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Having your identity stolen is a horrible experience. It can take months of corresponding with the three credit bureaus to fix your credit report. Plus, you feel violated and vulnerable.

Yet, it is even more heartbreaking when identity thieves take advantage of the deceased.

The increase of identity theft for deceased individuals is alarming. And it is the last thing you want to worry about when grieving the loss of a family member.

Be sure to do these five things to avoid the theft of you deceased loved one's identity:

1. Secure important documents: An individual has many personal and financial documents. Locate your deceased relative's bills, account statements, bank statements, and hospital records. Place those you need in a safe location and limit access to family members. Then shred the documents that are no longer needed.

Be sure to also gather the deceased's wallet, state issued identification card, and social security card. Place all of these items in a secure location.

2. Contact creditors: Notify all banks, credit card companies, and mortgage companies of your family member's death. Most will require a certified copy of a death certificate as proof that he or she is deceased.

Outstanding accounts and debts will need to be paid by the estate. But be wary of any debt collectors that contact you. Never provide any personal information about your deceased relative to anyone claiming to be a creditor. The executor of your family member's estate should arrange for payment and the closing of each account.

3. Notify the 3 credit bureaus: Request that the three credit reporting bureaus place a warning on your family member's credit report that he or she is deceased and that no credit should be issued. Then obtain a copy of your family member's credit report to make sure you have contacted all creditors.

4. Notify other governmental agencies: Notify the Social Security Administration, Veteran's Administration, and Department of Motor Vehicles of your loved one's passing.

5. Keep the obituary short: Don't give away personal information such as the deceased's birthdate or mother's maiden name. Identity thieves use this type of information to set up accounts.

Don't let your deceased loved one's identify be stolen. Take these precautions to protect his or her identity and to avoid further heartache.

Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney who has practiced in the areas of business law and estate planning.

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