Monthly Archives: November 2011

Social Security numbers – will online access be cut off?

Last week, Representative Sam Johnson of Texas introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that, if passed, will limit access to Social Security numbers available online.

The act, entitled “Keeping IDsSafe Act of 2011″ (KIDS Act), is intended to end online access to the Social Security Death Master File. This file currently enables anyone to easily locate the Social Security number of a deceased person. The File has been used for more than ten years by identity thieves to, among other things, file bogus tax returns to the IRS and collect refunds.

The bill was introduced two days after senators met with the Social Security Administration Commissioner, Michael Astrue, to ask the agency to limit information currently released in the death file.

As reported in a recent Scripps Howard News Service article, the need for access to this file to be limited was graphically illustrated when the parents of Benny Watters of Lake Forest, Illinois filed a tax return in August of this year. Benny died at age 5 in September 2010 and the Watters tax return was rejected. Why? Someone else had stolen the boy’s identity and claimed him as a dependent!

There have been recent news reports that say the IRS flagged 350,000 potentially fraudulent 2010 tax returns requesting $1.25 billion in refunds using information gathered about the dead.

The bill introduced by Johnson would limit access to the death file to law enforcement. Tax administrators and government researchers.

To find out more about this topic and other online identity thefts, check out “Grave Robbers…How to Stop the Identity theft of the Deceased.”

Everyone needs a will. Do you have one?

It is critically important for everyone to have a will.  If you don’t have one, your wishes may not be carried out.  Why? 

First of all,  every state has laws covering what is called “dying intestate” (without a will).  These rules strictly dictate who will receive what from your estate. 

Let’s look at one example.  You have two children.  The first child worked his way through college and didn’t take any money from you.  You paid all of the fees associated with the second child getting a degree and consider that money an advance on that child’s future inheritance.  So you would like the first child to receive 75% of your assets and the second to get only 25%.  However, when you die, you do not have a will which specifies this.  According to the laws in many states, both of your children will share equally in your estate.

You may feel sentimental about some of your possessions.  Maybe you have a few special pieces of jewelry and know to which member of your family you wish to give each one.  Without a will, your wishes don’t count.

A will is also a good place to specify what you want your family to do with your body after you die.  Perhaps you wish to be buried; however, they may not know and this and may cremate your body instead.

This week, I read two interesting blogs which reminded me of  how important a subject this is.  Both, interestingly enough, come from outside of the United States. 

 The first comes from Ghana and begins by talking about the late Colonel Momar Khadafi  You may not care what Khadafi’s wishes were or that they were not carried out despite the fact that he had a will.  However, later the blog talks about the writer’s father and how he set the precedent for everyone in his village to have a will. 

The second was written by a woman in British Columbia and is a sad story about a man who told his former doctor, and later friend, about his wishes.  However, he didn’t write them in a formal will.  When he died, the doctor contacted the coroner to try to ensure that the wishes were carried out.  Instead, the man’s body was turned over to the Public Guardian and Trustee (a government group) and his wishes were disregarded.

Consider getting your will written today.  Not only will it make it easier for your wishes to be carried out but will remove an extra burden from your family members when you die.

 For more information about this subject and other related topics check out our book “Die Smart, 11 Mistakes That Cost Your Family Money When You Die”.

F

Twitter – When do the Tweets stop?

If a Twitter user dies, here are the steps you must take to remove his or her account or to save a backup of their public Tweets.

Contact Twitter at privacy [Email address: privacy #AT# twitter.com - replace #AT# with @ ] or by mail or fax at:

Twitter Inc.
c/o Trust and Safety
795 Folsome St., Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94107
Fax: 415-222-9958

In the letter that you send, include the following information:

  1. Your full name, contact information (including email address) and your relationship to the deceased user.
  2. The user name of the Twitter account or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.  
  3. A  link to a public obituary or other news article about the account holder’s death.

For more information about closing out social media and other accounts when someone dies, check out our book “Grave Robbers…How to prevent identity theft of the deceased.”

 

Yahoo – What happens to a deceased’s online account?

Any free Yahoo account will automatically be cancelled after it has been inactive for 90 days.  Premium services, however, will continue to be charged until Yahoo has been officially notified of the death of the account holder.

Only a person who has the authority to settle the deceased’s estate, i.e. an executor, can notify them about the death.  To do that, the following information must be sent to Yahoo at Custodian of Record, Yahoo Inc., 701 First Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089-1019:

1) The executor’s identification.

2) Notification of their appointment as executor.

3) A Copy of the death certificate.

What if the executor or family member just wants the deceased’s password or access to their Yahoo account?  No password will be issued by Yahoo to the executor or anyone else.

If you’d like more information about this or other related topics, check out our book “Grave Robbers…How to prevent identity theft of the deceased”.