September 18, 2014
Even when a person has passed away, their personally identifiable information isn’t safe.
Research by ID Analytics shows that the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans are misused by identity thieves every year.
The criminals use stolen information to open lines of credit and set up cell phone service in the names of deceased people. They file fraudulent tax returns claiming refunds. They also make up Social Security numbers for people who have died.
It’s likely that most of the identity theft you hear about is done by cyber criminals and dumpster divers, but thieves who steal identities of deceased people go about it differently. They skim obituaries for information and visit funeral homes, hospitals and nursing homes to see what they can steal. They also access the Death Master File (DMF), which contains sensitive information such as Social Security Number, name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence, and ZIP code of the last residence.
While there are many privacy laws and legislation that protect personal information, recently the government passed new legislation that makes it tougher to steal the identity of a deceased person from the DMF.
Here are ways individuals can help reduce identity theft of people who are deceased:
Today, identity theft is a constant threat for everyone, and it’s important to think about protection at all times. For example, protect PIN numbers, don’t carry every piece of ID, use password protection and screen lock tools on all electronic devices, and take all receipts, smartphones, and tablets when you leave a public place.
Learn more about identity theft and how to ensure your information is protected.