Steps to protect a decedent’s identity

Each year nearly 800,000 deceased Americans’ identities are used by identity thieves to fraudulently open credit cards, apply for loans and get cell phone or other services, according to fraud prevention firm ID Analytics.

There are a few things you can do to minimize the chances that your loved one will be victimized:

     • Limit the amount of personal information published in the deceased’s obituary. Avoid using exact birth date, middle name, and maiden name. That type of information is useful to identity thieves.

     • Obtain at least 12 copies of the official death certificate when it becomes available. Some businesses will request an original death certificate.

     • Send the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) a hard copy of the death certificate; ask them to update their files so new credit cannot be opened in the decedent’s name. (Normally it takes up to six months for the credit reporting agencies to be notified.)

     • Contact creditors, insurance companies, banks, brokerage houses, mortgage companies, the Social Security Administration and any pension issuer. Until these institutions receive word that the individual is deceased, the account remains open.

     • Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Once the proper agencies and institutions have been notified, you should continue to monitor the decedent’s credit report for a year to ensure there are no problems.