If you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft you know how aggravating it can be. Yet, even if you haven’t been victimized by identity thieves you may still have to deal with the problem because a thief has stolen the identity of a deceased relative.
According to a new study about 2 ½ million deceased Americans have their identities stolen every year. When this happens, the former spouses and family members of the deceased person are often left to deal with the mess.
According to financial security firm ID Analytics, identity thieves stole the Social Security numbers of about 1.6 million Americans last year. In another 800,000 instances, criminals used a deceased person’s identity to apply for credit cards, cell phone service, or other lines of credit. This type of identity theft can cause a headache for the deceased person’s family members, but they won’t be responsible for paying back any debt.
There are some practical steps you can take to help protect you from this kind of headache. A good way to start is to closely guard financial and personal information, especially information belonging to an elderly family member who is in a nursing home or other elder care facility.
Once a family member has died, you’ll need to ensure that the person handling the probate case contacts all relevant government agencies and notifies them of the person’s death. This will greatly reduce the chances that someone will be able to open an account in the deceased person’s name and cause the estate problems.