In today's world, people have access to all sorts of innovative gadgets and platforms, which assist them to defraud victims out of money and personal information. In the 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, it was found that virtually 15.4 million shoppers were targets of some kind of identity theft in 2016 alone.
Anyone can become a victim of identity theft and extortion, but unfortunately, it seems that of the most common targets these days are the deceased and their next of kin. This is especially true for widows and widowers. If you have just recently lost your loved one, continue reading to learn some ways to protect yourself from identify theft and other similar types of crimes.
Identify Theft and Obituaries
Obituaries are one of the first places criminals will look to get the personal information they need to steal the deceased's identity. It is possible for these thieves to get a person's address, birthdate, maiden name, place of birth, next of kin names, and much more identifying information. They can use this information to open various accounts, obtain credit, take out loans, and much more. They can even file taxes under the deceased's name and collect an annual refund.
For this reason, it is wise to limit the amount of personal information you submit in your loved one's obituary. Refrain from including sensitive details, like birthdates, addresses, and maiden names. This information is highly useful for criminals. Furthermore, be sure to submit your loved one's death certificate to the proper financial organizations. This includes the IRS, the DMV, banks, brokerages, credit card companies, mortgage companies, and credit officialdoms like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Thieves won't just stop at stealing the identity of the deceased, they will often go after the next of kin. A common scam used against the next of kin, especially widows and widowers, is the debt collector con. This is when a criminal with a load of personal information about the deceased and their family contacts the next of kin claiming to be a debt collector. They demand that the next of kin pay the deceased debts, and may even threaten legal action.
Sometimes, instead of claiming there's a debt, they will claim they have vital financial or legal documents, but will only release them for a fee. Tips to avoid this: Never make payments or give personal information over the phone. Also, ask the caller for details about themselves; this usually scares them away. For instance, ask for a name and phone number, and then tell them you will call them back. This frequently works.
Another common scam operated by thieves who prey on the deceased's next of kin is the inheritance scam. A criminal will pose as an insurance agent or lawyer, and claim that you are owed an insurance policy payout or an inheritance. They will tell you that in order to receive it, you will need to first pay the final premium payment or processing fee. If this happens to you, be sure to ask the con artist several details to catch them up and scare them off the phone. If they are legitimate, they will have an office for you to visit and official paperwork to review.