Identity thieves are despicable when they steal (and use) the personal credit information of a deceased person. It does happen and there are steps to take to prevent this type of identity theft. This type of theft is sometimes called ‘Ghosting’.
As soon as possible after the death, write a letter of notification and enclose a photocopy of the original death certificate to each bureau. The addresses are:
Equifax Office of Fraud Assistance, P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian, P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013-2002
TransUnion, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
Here is a sample letter to help prevent the risk of identity theft of the dead. It should be mailed to all the deceased’s credit issuers, and to each of three credit-reporting bureaus:
To prevent any future risk of identity theft, please place an official death notice on the credit file of:
DECEASED’S FULL name (with middle initial if used)
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Enclosed you will find a copy of his/her death certificate. Please contact me, (name) if you have any questions at (XXX) XXX-XXXX, or by email at XXXXXXXXXX.XXX.
City, State, ZIP
FREE Credit Reports
By law, you are entitled a FREE credit report from all three main bureaus every year. Several weeks following the death, use this service at www.annualcreditreport.com to run a credit report on the deceased to ensure there is no suspicious activity on his/her accounts and to verify the credit bureaus have correctly marked the records as deceased.
If any outstanding debts remain on the deceased’s credit report and were originally opened as a joint account, steps need to be taken to have the card name changed to your name only. Contact the creditor’s representative to have the name of the deceased removed from the account and proceed with necessary paperwork to have the card name changed to your name. Sometimes a photocopy of the death certificate is requested. Here, the letter should be sent certified with return receipt requested.
A surviving spouse is not responsible for personal debts of the deceased. If needed, check with local and state governments, or contact an attorney to help clear up matters of this nature.
When a loved one dies and there is so much else going on, protecting the identity of the deceased from theft is something most people do not think about. Unfortunately, this must be done. Asking for help from a family member or close friend is always advisable.