Identity theft not only violates its victim's privacy rights, but often presents overwhelming challenges which can take years to repair the damage inflicted on one's credit and financial records. To add pain to misery, today millions of Americans are being haunted with an even more disturbing threat: criminals are now using the identity of a deceased loved one to apply for credit.
An ID analytics study found that 2.5 million deceased Americans identities are stolen each year. Targeting the deceased is appealing to identity thieves because it can take up to six months for death records to be registered, giving thieves ample time to rack up charges. Thieves scour through obituaries to obtain the victim's name, age and birthdate. They are then able to locate the Social Security Number through the Social Security Administration's list of deceased Americans known as the "Death Master File."
This creates additional headaches for surviving family members as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones. Luckily, a simple yet effective estate plan can safeguard against identity theft.
For example, storing all important account information within your estate plan and designating a financial power of attorney to monitor your information after death will help reduce the risk of identity theft. It is also crucial to notify the proper government agencies of a loved one's death right away to help limit opportunities for identity theft.
The best defense is to be proactive. Take steps to organize your affairs, put your wishes in writing, and plan your estate so that your loved ones have the tools and authority they need to carry out your wishes and safeguard your legacy. An estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a highly effective estate plan that can reduce not only the risk of identity theft, but also the hardships for your family.