Thomas Peltier
Thomas Peltier
Recent reports indicate that identity thieves are reaching out beyond the grave and stealing the identity of the newly departed.

One of the places that identity thieves search for new victims is the obituary column. By including the date of birth and death, the identity thief can search the Social Security Administration's Death Index (SSADI) and find the Social Security number of the deceased.

According to a recent article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a woman working in a local hospital would text-message her son with the personal information of a dying patient so that he could open credit card accounts as soon as the patient died.

The Washington Post ran an article entitled, “No Soldier Buried Alone,” and included a photo of a lady writing a personal note of condolence to the family. The picture showed the hands of the writer, the note and the document identifying the deceased with the individual's name and Social Security number.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends various steps to help prevent the identity theft of a loved one.

First, get a copy of the credit report of the deceased to identify all open accounts. Notify all account holders of the death, including banks, investment services and stock market accounts. Also, contact the fraud department of the three credit reporting agencies, including Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (800-397-3742), and TransUnion (800-680-7289). Too, notify the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213). Be sure to notify insurance companies (life and health), the agency responsible for driver's licenses in your state, the Veteran's Administration (800-949-1001 ex. 4209). Close joint accounts. And, finally, avoid putting too much information in the death notice.

If you discover identity theft has occurred, report the incident to your local police, the organizations listed above, and to the FTC (877-438-4338) and the office of your state's attorney general.