Protecting Yourself from Ghosting Identity Theft

[SIZE=5][B]Understanding Ghosting Identity Theft[/B][/SIZE]

Ghosting identity theft occurs when a fraudster steals the identity of a deceased person and uses it to commit various forms of theft and fraud, such as opening credit accounts, claiming tax refunds, or obtaining services and benefits. The term “ghosting” comes from the idea that the deceased individual’s identity is seemingly brought back to life by the criminal. It can take time before institutions are notified of a death, providing a window of opportunity for identity thieves.

[SIZE=5][B]How Does Ghosting Identity Theft Happen?[/B][/SIZE]

There are a few common ways in which ghosting identity theft can occur. Thieves may obtain personal information through obituaries, death certificates, or public records. Sometimes, the personal information of the deceased is sold by unscrupulous employees who have access to death records. Once they have the necessary information, these fraudsters can begin applying for credit, jobs, or even medical services under the deceased person’s name.

[SIZE=5][B]Preventive Measures for Protecting the Deceased’s Identity[/B][/SIZE]

To protect your loved ones from ghosting identity theft, follow these preventive measures:

[LIST]
[*][B]Limit Information in Obituaries:[/B] Keep obituaries free of personal details such as exact birthdates, addresses, or mother’s maiden name as these can be used to steal identities.
[*][B]Promptly Notify Relevant Agencies:[/B] Inform the Social Security Administration, banks, credit agencies, and other institutions of the death as quickly as possible.
[*][B]Secure Death Certificates:[/B] Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate, and provide them to any institution that may need verification of death to close accounts or change billing information.
[*][B]Monitor for Suspicious Activity:[/B] Keep an eye on the deceased’s credit report for any unusual activity that could indicate identity theft.
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[SIZE=5][B]Helpful Resources for Monitoring and Assistance[/B][/SIZE]

Victims of ghosting identity theft can seek help through a variety of resources:

[LIST]
[*][B]Credit Reporting Agencies:[/B] Contact major credit bureaus to place a “deceased alert” on the individual’s credit report.
[*][B]Federal Trade Commission (FTC):[/B] Report identity theft to the FTC for assistance with recovery plans.
[*][B]Identity Theft Protection Services:[/B] Consider utilizing such services that can alert you to potential fraud on the deceased’s accounts.
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[SIZE=5][B]Legal Steps and Recourse[/B][/SIZE]

If you find that the deceased’s identity has been stolen, there are legal steps you can take to mitigate the damage:

[LIST]
[*][B]File a Police Report:[/B] Alert local law enforcement and provide them with documentation and evidence of the theft.
[*][B]Fraud Alerts or Credit Freezes:[/B] Place fraud alerts on the deceased’s credit files or freeze their credit entirely to prevent further damage.
[*][B]Contact Financial Institutions:[/B] Reach out to any affected banks or creditors and inform them of the situation.
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[SIZE=5][B]Final Thoughts on Protecting Against Ghosting Identity Theft[/B][/SIZE]

Protection against ghosting identity theft requires diligence before and after the loss of a loved one. By taking proactive steps to secure their personal information and being vigilant for signs of suspicious activity, you can help keep the identities of deceased friends and family members secure. Always remember to treat the personal details of the deceased with the same care and consideration as you would the living, ensuring their peace even after passing.


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