Tag Archives: identity theft

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 OptOutPrescreen.com 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: diesmart.com.

 

Tax ID Theft – a massive problem, especially in Florida

Identity Theft

Identity theft of the deceased is a problem which we have written about before. It’s one that can be prevented by taking some simple steps. However, the U.S. Treasury Department recently announced a new, lucrative reason to steal and use the identity of a deceased person – tax identity fraud.

How does this work? Using stolen names and Social Security numbers, thieves are filing phony electronic tax forms to claim refunds. According the U.S. treasury department, this is a huge problem that could cost our country $21 billion over the next five years. The number of cases nationwide has skyrocketed from 48,000 in 2008 to more than 1.2 million in 2012.

It is a very troubling problem since, unlike Medicare fraud, it is associated with violent crime and armed gangs. All a gang needs is your name and tax ID number. They can make up the other details needed to complete a tax form.

To prevent this from happening, the IRS is trying to speed up the loading of data from W-2 payroll forms issued at the beginning of the tax season, a time lapse which gives thieves time to file using false data.

They are also looking for ways to authenticate the identity of tax files at the time of filing and are working with the Social Security Administration to limit access to a registry of Social Security data of deceased tax payers, the Death Master File. This File is often a target of fraud since Social Security numbers currently become public record 90 days after someone dies.

To learn more about identity theft of the deceased and find out how you can prevent the identify of a loved one from being stolen, go to http://diesmart.com.

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.

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.”

Grave Robbers: How to Prevent Identity Theft of the Deceased

FREE BONUS FORMS

There are three links below. The first link is a download of the form you can use to notify the state Department of Motor Vehicles of the death. The second link is a download of the forms you can use to request a death flag be added to the decedent’s credit files. The third link provides information to use for cancelling email and social media accounts.

Part 1: Department of Motor Vehicles notification form

Download this form

Click on the name of the state in which the decedent’s driver license was issued. You will be linked to the form you use to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once you complete the form, print and sign it. Mail the signed form and any necessary attachments to the address listed for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Part 2. Request the credit reporting agencies add a death flag.

The link will download the forms you need to use to request that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion add a death flag to the decedent’s credit records. Once you complete the forms print and sign them. Mail the signed form and any necessary attachments to each credit agency.

Use this form if you are a surviving spouse

Use this form if you are an executor

Use this form if you are a trustee

Use this form if you are not a surviving spouse and the estate is not subject to probate.

Part 3. Internet Service Provider Policies.

Each Internet Service Provider establishes rules and procedures for handling the account of the decedent.    A summary of these rules and procedures can be found in the DieSmart Digital Asset reference table.