Protect a deceased’s identity from thieves

by Catherine Haug, March 14, 2013

There are many scams afoot to steal your identity, or that of your aging or deceased parents, according to the March 2013 AARP Bulletin: Scam Alert: Protecting the Dead From Identity Theft, by Sid Kirchheimer. But you don’t have to be a victim. Here are 6 steps to protect your loved one’s identity (from the Bulletin). NOTE: numbers in square brackets [n] refer to Cat’s Notes below the list.

  1. In obituaries, list the age but don’t include birth dat, mother’s maiden name or other personal identifiers that could be useful to ID thieves. Omitting the person’s address also reduces the likelihood of a home burglary during the funeral (sadly, this does happen).
  2. Using certified mail with “return receipt requested,” send copies of the death certificate to each credit-reporting bureau – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – asking them to place a “deceased alert” on the credit report [1]. Mail certificates to bank, insurers, brokerages and credit card/mortgage companies where the deceased held accounts [2]. If you’re closing an individual account, make sure the institution lists “Closed: Account Holder is Deceased” as the reason. For joint accounts, remove the deceased’s name.
  3. Report the death to Social Security by calling 800-772-1213. [3]
  4. Contact the department of motor vehicles to cancel the deceased’s driver’s license, to prevent duplicates from being issued to fraudsters [4].
  5. A few weeks later, check the credit report of the person at to see if there’s been any suspicious activity. Several months later, go to the same site to get another free report from a different credit-reporting bureau.
  6. For more tips, visit and type “deceased” in the search box.

See also Sid Kirchheimer’s Scam Alerts for lots more scam info.

Cat’s Notes:

[1] Addresses of credit-reporting bureaus

The following information is from, who note that the information may change but was accurate as of October 2012. They also provide information on how to get to a live human being at each bureau.

  • Equifax, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374,
  • Experian, P.O. Box 2002, Allen, Tx 75013
  • TransUnion, LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA, 19022

[2] List of financial accounts

To help out your children/heirs, maintain a list of all financial accounts to help them with the task of sending your death notifications.

[3] Notify Social Security of a Death

In case this phone number changes, see See also Responsibility to notify Social Security of a death

[4] Drivers’ licenses

In addition to the information below, see County Treasurer Motor Vehicle Offices in Montana

Comments are closed.