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Steps to Take to Protect a Deceased Family Member’s Identity

As strange as it may seem, dead or alive your identity is at risk. The grave is no panacea for having your identity stolen. In this blog, we’re going to cover the five things you should be doing to protect a loved one or family member who has passed from deceased identity theft.

Before we get started, we are financial advisors for widows. We’ve written other blogs on this topic which you can read below.

Financial planning for widows

Selling a home after your spouse dies

Widows and annuities

The complete guide to losing a spouse who owns a business

Social Security Survivor Benefits for widows

We also have a podcast for widows that you may enjoy.

And now onto the blog!

Let’s talk for a moment about what deceased identity theft is.

Basically it is when somebody gets hold of a deceased person’s confidential information – such as Social Security number, license number, healthcare or financial information – and then uses it to create a fake identity that they use for their own doings. They may utilize this fake identity for things such as obtaining employment, making major purchases, or opening up lines of credit. Deceased identity theft is a crime and violators should be prosecuted. However, as with any serious crime, the best cure is prevention.

Here are five things you can do.

#1 Alert the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

A fraudster can use a driver’s license as part of their efforts to steal a deceased person’s identity.

In those states in which the office of Vital Records doesn’t inform the DMV about the license holder’s death, you may need to cancel the ID manually. Find out in your state and you may need these documents:


      • A request to cancel the decedent’s driver’s license

      • A certified copy of the death certificate

      • The decedent’s original driver’s license

    #2 Alert all major credit reporting agencies

    Notify any one of the three major credit bureaus about your deceased family member.


        • Experian

        • TransUnion

        • Equifax

      The agency will place a deceased alert on the report, which works as a permanent freeze and prevents criminals from opening new accounts in their name. This helps to avoid deceased identity theft because any time that somebody tries to open a new account, a designated representative (family member, usually) is notified.

      #3 Monitor credit reports regularly

      Request copies of their credit report from each agency to check for suspicious activity. You will need a copy of the death certificate and proof you are legally authorized to act on their behalf. The copy of the reports will give you a list of accounts you can use to notify them of the death.

      #4 Notify financial institutions

      Contact any institutions that had accounts for your loved one and close those accounts. Send a copy of their death certificate and ask them to place a notice on the account stating the account is closed because to the account holder is deceased.  Places to contact may include but are not limited to:


          • Banks

          • Credit card companies

          • Insurance providers

          • Mortgage companies

          • The IRS

          • Social Security Administration

        #5 Shred important documents

        Shred any documents that contain their Social Security number, address and other sensitive information. Shredders don’t have to be expensive – you can purchase a small one for a reasonable amount of money.

        Other resources to help you prevent deceased identity theft

        These five items may not be the only things to do to protect your deceased loved one’s identity. See these websites below for additional steps or help if your deceased loved one’s identity has been compromised.

        Identity Theft Resource Center

        Cybercrime Support Network

        Keeping your family’s wealth safe is important, and it is one component of a healthy overall financial picture. At Rock House Financial, a fee-only financial advisor in Davis County, Utah, we have financial advisors for those who have lost a spouse on our team. If you would like to speak with us about putting a financial plan together, please reach out.

        Thanks for reading, and before you go please check out our podcast for widows.

        Nicole Roberts CFP® is a financial advisor for widows, divorced, and single women. 


        Rock House Financial (RH Advisors) throughout this website has provided links to various other websites. While the firm believes this information to be reasonably reliable, current and valuable to its clients, The firm provides these links on a strictly informational basis only and cannot be held liable for the accuracy, time sensitive nature, or viability of any information shown on these sites.

        The opinions expressed herein are those of the firm and are subject to change without notice. The opinions referenced are as of the date of publication and are subject to change due to changes in the market or economic conditions and may not necessarily come to pass. Any opinions, projections, or forward-looking statements expressed herein are solely those of author, may differ from the views or opinions expressed by other areas of the firm, and are only for general informational purposes as of the date indicated.