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Grief Thieves Exist. Part 2. Thwart Identity Theft

07 March 2020
Grief Thieves Exist. Part 2. Thwart Identity Theft

In the first part of our series on grief thieves, we covered home theft, when thieves target the homes of the deceased and their loved ones while they are attending a funeral. Now we’ll tackle the risk of identity theft, which can rob heirs of their inheritance. 

According to AARP, every year 800,000 deceased individuals are targeted for identity theft  -  that’s roughly 2,200 a day. 

Seeming innocuous information, often published in an obituary, can provide all the information a crook needs to steal the identity of a deceased individual. Think about what biographical data is right there, in black and white, that can be mined…the date and place of birth, both of which are associated with the first five digits of a social security number; names of the mother and father of the deceased, often including the mother’s maiden name; the names of children and their ages; and where they went to high school and college. 

A particularly savvy identity thief can hack to find the last four digits of a social security number (frequently used for legitimate identification purposes). Once they have that and an address history (which is also often hinted at in an obituary), they have more than what they need to open accounts, take out loans or credit cards, or hack into sensitive websites  -  and plunder the deceased’s estate in the process. 

But you can take steps to make sure that the identity of your loved one is protected. Here’s what to do: 

  • Inform credit bureaus immediately, before publishing the obituary. Request that they freeze the credit of the deceased and place  “deceased — do not issue credit” flag on the credit file. (Credit bureaus claim that informing one will suffice because one will inform the other two, however, how long this takes is unknown.)
  • Send the following information by certified mail with a return receipt requested to the credit bureaus: 
    • Trust or other documentation indicating you are the executor or spouse.
    • A certified copy of the death certificate, one with a raised stamp.
    • Deceased information:
      • Full name
      • Date of birth
      • Social Security number
      • Most recent address
      • Date of death

                       -       Information on the requestor/surviving spouse

                                - name

- mailing address

- copy of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport

Requestor information for Executor or Court-appointed designees:

*  copy of the requestor’s identification

*  Legal documentation

o   Executor: copy of the trust / will, executor agreement, Power of Attorney documentation

o   Court-appointed designee: Court designation authorization

*  Your address to receive confirmation notice

Keep records! Track the following closely: 

*  copies of everything you send

*  the date sent

*   the date a reply is received

*  Reference in any required follow-up request or communications

Follow up in a couple weeks and get a credit report to ensure the credit has been frozen. In addition, this will give you the names of the deceased’s open accounts, which can guide the executor in resolving finances.

The mailing addresses and contact information for the three major credit agencies are listed below. In case you want to freeze your own credit reports, we’ve included those websites as well.  





Mailing Address

PO Box 2000

Chester, PA 19022

P.O. Box 4500,

Allen, TX 75013

PO Box 740241

Atlanta, GA 30374*

Phone number


888 397 3742

866 349-5191

Upload online option

Credit Freeze website

*unable to independently verify Equifax's address, this obtained from third party articles

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