by Hanne Flippen, Marketing Manager at VitalChek
Most people know that in order to protect oneself from identity theft it’s important to carefully guard important documents and take precautions with digital data. However, these efforts are often forgotten during traumatic times, such as the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, that can be a critical time during which to guard personal documents such as a death certificate, bank statements, social security cards, etc.
Deceased relatives are at just as high a risk of identity theft as living ones, if not higher. When your family is in mourning, you may not pay close attention to the financial and personal details of your deceased relative, and unfortunately, many criminals will take advantage of the situation.
Here are some easy steps to protect your deceased loved ones from identity theft.
- Locate and Secure Identity Documents. Your relative’s social security card, birth certificate, driver’s license, credit cards, and other personal information need to be gathered and placed in a secure location. A lock-box at a bank can do the trick. That way thieves won’t be able to find and comb through the information for later use.
- Go Easy on the Obituary. Newspaper obituaries can act as a written testimonial of the life your loved one’s lived, and it’s normal to want to include every detail. However, be careful how much information you include. Details such as ones exact birth date, address, middle name, and maiden name are just the tools a thief needs to apply for credit or insurance in your relative’s name.
- Keep a Close Eye on Estate Documents. Items like the death certificate, will, and probate information, usually need to be filed and sent to legal authorities. Be careful who handles these documents and how many copies are made. It’s best to have one person in the family be the keeper of the documents, and to only make the copies you need. Additionally, you can use a service like VitalChek to order certified death certificate copies if the original ever gets misplaced.
- Notify Banks, Creditors, and the DMV. Be sure to notify agencies such as credit companies, banks, insurance companies, previous employers and the department of motor vehicles of the death. A thief, or even a struggling relative, could find a non-cancelled account and keep it active with the possibility of building up debt or making claims in your deceased relative’s name.
This is the one of many posts from VitalChek – keep an eye out for more tips and practical strategies for travel and life!