The June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, was a horrible tragedy that resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 people. While heroic first-responders spent days searching the rubble for survivors, others—decidedly less heroic—were allegedly busy stealing the identity of several of the recently deceased victims. According to charges brought by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, three people stole over $45,000, including luxury handbags and shoes purchased at boutiques in a tony Miami shopping center, using “replacement” credit cards issued on the accounts of several individuals who died when the tower collapsed. According to reporting in the New York Times, ‘Cyber Grave Robbers’ Accused of Stealing Identities of Surfside Condo Victims, professional identity thieves have learned to exploit tragedies—particularly natural disasters that result in widespread displacement—by impersonating recently deceased people. In this case, the sister of one of the victims alerted law enforcement when she saw activity on her sister’s accounts after the building’s collapse. Beyond how examples like this may undermine one’s faith in humanity, they demonstrate that vigilance of personal information is required even after death and tragedy.
Nixon Peabody’s Cybersecurity and Privacy team will continue to monitor developments.