September.15.17‬ Personal Finance‬
Money Matters with Nimi

Coping with the loss of a loved is undoubtedly one of life’s most painful experiences. The last thing a bereaved family needs to deal with whilst mourning their loss, is to find that an identity thief has taken advantage of their loss and has used their loved one’s information to drain the estate of its assets. Fraudsters will try to take advantage of a family in mourning, distracted at a trying time to cause harm in this way. Here are some of the steps that you can take to protect the identity of a deceased loved one, and the sooner after their death, the better.

Too much information

The deceased can be particularly vulnerable to identity theft because it can take much longer for any fraudulent activity to be detected than if they were alive. Much information about their death is readily available to the public in the form of death notices and obituaries in local newspapers, which are a source of valuable information. What might seem like innocuous details, such as such mother’s maiden name, address, ancestry, birth date, death date are just the kind of leads that can be used fraudulently for a range of ills from setting up new accounts in the deceased person’s name to absconding with property. Whilst it is important to honor the deceased and announce the death to the public, try to avoid disclosing too much personal information about your loved one in public announcements of their death.

Secure sensitive documents quickly

Death certificates are very sensitive documents; make several copies of the original and keep all securely. Because of issues of security you will find that, many organizations, including banks and other financial institutions will insist upon sighting the original whilst they will retain certified copies to update their records. There are many personal and financial documents that must be found and secured immediately after a loved ones demise. Their home should be quickly secured to ensure that important documents such as bank statements, title documents, cheque books, ID cards and other valuables are not left easily accessible. There have been cases where thieves have broken into a deceased person’s home whilst everyone is attending the funeral. It’s also important to limit the number of people who have access to the deceased’s personal papers.

Notify financial institutions

It can take weeks or months after a person dies for the authorities to record a new death in their database. Financial institutions sometimes aren’t aware of a death for several months simply because they have not been officially notified by the family. In that time criminals can have a free reign to open accounts, get identification
cards, and do much damage using a dead person’s identity. Put together a list of all the deceased person’s accounts and without delay, notify all the companies where the deceased had a financial relationship. This might include banks, stockbrokers, investment companies, their pension fund administrator and other financial institutions where the deceased held an account. In some cases an original death certificate may be required. The narrative “account
holder is deceased”
will be clearly stated as the reason of closure so the accounts cannot be reopened and used by identity thieves. All outstanding debts will have to be resolved by the executor before the account can be closed or the deceased person’s name removed from the account. Joint accounts should be closed and the balance transferred to the surviving account holder’s name. Other accounts that the deceased operated may also need to be closed, balances transferred to beneficiaries or newly created estate account. Your lawyer will be able to advise exactly how all this should be handled and what documents are required. In economies where credit reporting is well established, it is important that the agencies are notified formally.

Family members

Sadly, there are numerous cases of identity theft committed by relatives of the deceased. Family members have ready access to personal and financial information necessary to commit identity fraud; this might be a relative who is in financial difficulty, or a child that has sense of entitlement and feels that they were treated unfairly in the probate process. For that reason, and particularly with families with complicated situations it is important that the critical identifying information of a deceased is available to only a handful of people. Ideally one trusted member of the family should be the point-person for collecting documents, closing accounts and so on an who is available to start dealing with estate matters quite early. Whilst it is indeed a difficult time to have to deal with a deceased
person’s finances or personal information so soon after their death, the current reality is that the identities of deceased individuals are increasingly vulnerable to fraudulent attack. Unfortunately, in a world where identity theft is a fast growing crime, it is important to do all you can to protect your loved ones identity.

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2 Responses to “Grave robbers and identity theft”

  1. Olusola says:

    Insightful. Thank you @NIMI. Your blog stands out! I have learnt a lot reading your articles. I wish I had known many things before now as regards investment and savings, it’s not too late though, the joy is the circle of financial illiteracy can’t continue around me! So it’s a great joy, My eyes are being opened to this other aspect of learning.
    God bless you ma.

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