Tag Archives: Digital assets

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.”

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”.

Hotmail – Does it stay hot?

No it doesn’t.   If no action is taken, once 120 days with no sign in have passed, all messages in the account will be deleted and inbound mail refused.  If a customer doesn’t sign into any part of the Windows Live network during this period, the ID as well as any Messenger contact lists will also be deleted.


The deceased’s next of kin has the right to notify Hotmail about the death.  He or she will need to supply several things in order to shut down the account immediately or to gain access to the content of the account:



  • a photocopy of the death certificate

  • paperwork stating that the next of kin is a benefactor to the deceased’s estate

  • a photocopy of the next of kin’s driver license

  • a document with the account name

  • the first and last name on the account

  • date of birth of the account holder

  • city, state, zip code of account holder

  • approximate date of account creation

  • approximate last date of sign in by the deceased

 All of this information should be sent via fax to Microsoft at 650-693-7061.  Although Microsoft will not provide the password to the next of kin, their policy allows the next of kin to gain access to the content of the account (burned onto media such as a CD) upon proving their relationship.


To find out more about digital assets, check out our book, “Grave Robbers…How to prevent identity theft of the deceased.”

MySpace – Does this digital space stay mine forever?

The simple answer is yes.  If no action is taken, your account will remain in cyberspace forever.

However, the MySpace account of someone who is deceased can be cancelled by their next of kin (mother, father, spouse, domestic partner, son or daughter).  That person will need to send proof of death (obituary or death certificate) to accountcare [Email address: accountcare #AT# support.myspace.com - replace #AT# with @ ].  That email should come from the personal email account of the person who is writing.  It should include an explanation of that person’s relationship to the deceased and the deceased’s MySpace friend ID (which can be found by clicking on the profile and copying the string of numbers or letters at the end of the URL) as well as the specific request to delete the profile.

Other options available are to preserve the profile as is or to remove some of the content that may no longer be appropriate.  MySpace will be glad to remove any content that is found objectionable.

Another choice is to create a memorial for the deceased – a group page to honor that person.  That page is then linked to the deceased’s MySpace profile.

If there is access to the email account tied to the deceased’s MySpace profile, the password can be obtained thru the Forgot Password link located on the MySpace home page.  If there is no access, the password will not be provided by MySpace.

To learn more about how to protect digital assets, check on our book “Grave Robbers…How to stop identity theft of the deceased.”