Isn’t identity theft just by strangers?

Identity theft of the deceased is a huge problem today. You may think that it is just strangers preying on the families of deceased loved ones. However, it is sometimes those loved ones who perpetrate the fraud.

Last week in New Jersey, Jocelyn Russo, 36, pleaded guilty to using her dead aunt’s identity to gain access to credit card and bank savings accounts. Pretending to be her aunt, Jocelyn used her aunt’s Social Security number and other identifying data to authorize the addition of her name to her aunt’s accounts at Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

As her aunt, she added herself to credit card accounts as an authorized signer. She then made large purchases with those credit cards and didn’t pay them off. She also withdrew all of her aunt’s funds from a bank account at Provident Bank.

The three banks involved lost more than $30,000 because of the fraud and, of course, any other immediate family of the deceased suffered emotional as well as financial damage.

Russo is charged with bank fraud and can face a possible penalty of 30 years in jail and a fine of $1 million. She will be sentenced in February, 2013.

If you are the executor of someone’s estate, you should work quickly to notify the three credit bureaus about the death and to ask them to place a death flag on the accounts. You should also contact any financial institutions with which the deceased did business. Once the accounts have been flagged as belonging to someone who is deceased, fraud like the one the Jocelyn Russo perpetrated cannot happen.

For more information, go to www.diesmart.com or look for our book, GRAVE ROBBERS…HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT OF THE DECEASED.

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