It's tough enough losing a family member. Now imagine having to relive that loss because a thief has stolen their identity.
One woman is learning about theft after death, and has a warning for all of us. That's because sadly, even death -- that peaceful, final resting spot -- no longer protects you from identity theft.
Susan Hughes couldn't believe it. Her aunt -- who died 13 years ago -- was suddenly an identity-theft victim.
"The IRS sent a letter to my aunt, marked 'deceased,' and it said someone had used her Social Security number to gain employment," she said.
Now Hughes is scrambling to protect her beloved relative, and having to relive sad memories.
"After 13 years, who would expect to get something like that," she said.
It turns out identity theft involving the deceased happens a lot more often than you would think. It's very easy for the crook, because that person is never going to find out about it.
What you should do
Luckily, Hughes found the AARP's list of steps for survivors to take to prevent identity theft after death.
- Notify the Social Security Administration immediately of the death.
- Alert all banks, credit cards and other creditors, sending them an official Death Notice and letter.
- Contact the credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion , which Hughes is now doing 13 years later.
"Let them know to mark the account 'deceased, do not issue credit,''" she said.
Even though Hughes knows her aunt can't be stressed or troubled anymore, It still leaves her and family feeling violated.
"You just don't think about your loved one, who has passed, being a victim," she said.
AARP says tens of thousands of deceased people are targeted by identity thieves every year, who check death records and newspaper obituaries to find victims who can't fight back.
It says you should never list an exact date of birth in obituaries, to make the thief's job tougher, so you don't waste your money.
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