3 Tips to Protect the Identity of a Deceased Person

March 12, 2019

When a loved one dies, it’s always too soon.  The grieving process is difficult, and when you factor in that loved ones now need to sort through finances, it can be very stressful. This is the time when many are vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. You would think that after someone dies, their identity cannot be stolen, but that’s an opportune time for fraudsters to exploit the situation. Here are some steps you can take to protect the identity of a deceased loved one:

1. Immediately notify all companies that the person has died.

An important first step that’s often overlooked is to immediately notify all companies that the account holder is deceased. This includes reviewing all banks, brokerage firms, credit cards and mortgage companies to which someone is listed as an account owner. Taking this step will flag the account and limit the amount of transactions that can occur after someone passes. Each company will have their own requirements after someone dies, and they will outline these steps for the survivors.  Don’t delay taking this step out of fear that all questions need to be answered right away. There will be plenty of time to gather the documentation needed, and for the surviving spouse or executor to fill out all the paperwork.

2. Work with the Credit Agencies.

One of the most common ways fraudsters exploit someone’s identity is by taking out a credit card or loan in their name.  Each of the three credit agencies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) report on existing credit cards and loans for individuals.  Notify each credit agency of the person’s death and request a copy of the credit report to identify any existing accounts and loan balances. Loans can be one of the biggest blind spots because fraudsters can rack up large balances before a monthly statement arrives in the mail and it’s too late.

3. Change passwords for accounts.

Take the simple step to update passwords. So many accounts are linked to each other, and this helps to prevent against all sorts of identity theft. The surviving spouse, executor or the person in charge of their estate should then monitor the email account to note any activity and notifications from other institutions.

Take these three steps to protect the identity of your deceased loved one against fraudsters, and you will have avoided many of the potential cybersecurity risks.

Dave Deschamps is a Wealth Manager and the leader of the Widows Practice Group at BDF.  Dave enjoys bringing clarity and understanding to the big picture questions while filtering out a lot of the distractions.  Drawing on over a decade of experience as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional, he’s able to help clients balance the financial implications along with the emotional considerations when making important decisions.  Dave joined BDF in September 2017 after spending the previous 10 years with a financial planning firm in the Chicagoland area.  He earned his B.A. in Business Administration from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.