Category Archives: Identity Theft

Ghosting – Do you know what it is?

th1EAZMTEQAccording to Wikipedia, ghosting is a form of identity theft in which someone steals the identity, and sometimes even the role within society, of a specific dead person (the “ghost”) who is not widely known to be deceased.

As our population ages and more and more people are dying every day, identity thieves are keying in on this fact for their gain.  An Ohio family found out about ghosting the hard way about a year ago when one of these thieves stole over $2.2 million from their deceased father’s estate.

“Ghosts” steal a deceased person’s personally identifiable information and use it for things such as account takeover, tax refund fraud, medical ID theft and driver license ID theft.  They also apply for new credit cards and loans using this information.

By the time the family of the deceased finds out about the theft, it may cause problems with the estate and may cause great expense to lenders or others who were fooled.  In some cases, creditors will try to come after the estate, even if the money owed is because of ghosting.

Here are a few helpful hints to make sure a “ghost” won’t cause problems for you when a loved one dies.

Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate.  That way, a “ghost” won’t be able to file a fraudulent tax return and collect any refund.

Send a copy of the death certificate to credit card companies and other financial accounts that were held by the deceased and ask that those accounts be closed.

Notify each of the major credit bureaus and ask them to put a death notification on the accounts of the deceased.

Don’t put too much information in an obituary.  Thieves can use date of birth, exact address, mother’s maiden name to help open new accounts.

Be alert and check the deceased’s credit report for questionable activity.

For more information about identity theft and other issues related to estates, go to


Opt out – It’s one more way to prevent identity theft

You probably know that identity theft is a huge problem in the United States.  It occurs when someone uses your name or Social Security number to obtain identity documents and then uses them for financial gain.  But you may be surprised to learn that 25% of all identity thefts are of people who are deceased.

There are several ways to prevent identity theft and these are discussed in our book “Grave Robbers…How to Prevent Identity Theft of the Deceased.”  The second edition of this book will be out shortly.

One way you can deter thieves is by not getting unsolicited applications for credit cards or insurance.  If you’re like me, you get at least a few of these mailings every week.  And what happens to these applications?  If they come to your home,  you quickly retrieve them from your mailbox and then shred them, probably nothing.  But if they come to the home of someone who is deceased, they may sit in the mailbox for awhile, easy prey for an identity theft.

There’s one simple thing you can do.  Go to and opt out.

What does this mean?  The consumer crediting reporting companies usually include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make offers.  When you opt out, your name can longer be included which frees you from unsolicited mail and protects your identity.  When you opt out on behalf of someone who is deceased, you are making it more difficult for an identity thief to steal their identity by applying for credit cards or insurance in their name.

It only takes a few seconds to do, costs nothing and will not only eliminate some of the unwanted mail you probably receive every day but will protect your identity as well.

For more information about identity theft as well as other end of life and after death issues, check out our website: