Victims of identity theft can spend years repairing damage done to their finances and credit by predatory criminals. But increasingly, these criminals are turning to an even more troubling tactic: using the identities of the recently deceased.
According to a study by ID Analytics, a consumer risk management company, the identities of as many as 2.5 million deceased Americans are stolen each year. Because government agencies can take up to six months to register death records, thieves have plenty of time to rack up charges. They first look through obituaries to find the victims’ names and birth dates. Using that, they are able to find their targets’ Social Security numbers through the “Death Master File,” a list of deceased Americans maintained by the Social Security Administration.
Fortunately, proper estate planning can help prevent identity theft after death. Keep information on all of your financial and credit accounts with your estate plan. Grant a financial power of attorney to your estate planning attorney or another person you trust so that they can monitor your information. And make sure loved ones know to notify the proper government authorities promptly of your death, and do the same for them.
With a comprehensive estate plan, including organized records with your wishes clearly expressed in writing, your loved ones will have the information and authority they need to protect your legacy and themselves from the hardships of identity theft.