ID Theft


In England, where the source of identity theft is tracked, forty percent of reported identity theft cases came from information about the deceased.

When someone dies, we make it easy for identity thieves to steal their identity.   In the U.S., an estimated 400,000 checking accounts are opened each year in the name of someone who is deceased.

  • We publish the decedent’s  name, address and date of birth in the obituary.
  • If probate is required, the documents filed with the probate courts are often public records.  This means anyone can walk into the probate court and ask the clerk to review the probate records.  Some companies make a business of scanning the documents, storing the documents on line and then selling access to probate records.  Many courts offer on line access to probate records.
  • The U.S. passport office has no form or method to notify the passport office of the death of the deceased
  • State driver’s license bureaus have no form or method to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of the death of the deceased
  • Even worse, ninety days after the decedent’s death, the name and social security number of the deceased becomes public information.   The Social Security Death Index provides a public record of all deaths.  These records are available on many genealogy sites.  Enter the decedent’s name in a search box and the decedent’s social security number will be displayed

A family member or friend should take immediate steps to prevent the financial identity theft of the deceased.

Notify the credit bureaus of the death of the deceased.  Depending upon the circumstances, place a death flag or a credit security freeze on the decedent’s credit files

Complete the necessary forms to cancel identity documents.

2 thoughts on “ID Theft

  1. Seth

    I am APPALLED by this! I found my dead brother’s SSN published openly on a geneology website. How can this be legal? Does the government not realize that this is opening many doors to identity theft–even if the identity being stolen is one of the deceased?

    1. Minna Vallentine

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost your brother. Unfortunately, public access to the Social Security number of someone deceased is legal. That’s why it’s very important to put a death flag on your brother’s accounts at the credit bureaus. The death flags will protect his identity.

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