Identity Theft After Death

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Identity Theft After Death

The recently deceased are prime targets for fraudsters, so make sure to destroy any documents they could use to steal someone’s identity.


I’m going through my late mother-in-law’s belongings, and I see that her bank statements from the 1980s and 1990s often included her Social Security number. Do I need to shred them? --D.D., Washington, D.C.

See Also: Guide to Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

You should shred any documents with information that thieves could use to steal someone’s identity, even after they pass away. “Recently deceased individuals are a prime target for fraudsters,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education for the credit bureau Experian. ID thieves can do the most damage during the period after the person dies but before the credit bureaus, financial institutions and government agencies are notified.

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Financial institutions are usually notified about a death from the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, but that can take a while. It’s better to send copies of the death certificate to creditors, financial institutions, insurers, government agencies and even the credit bureaus as soon as possible, says Adam Levin, chairman of IDT911, which provides ID-theft protection programs for consumers through employers and banks. The fact sheet at has a checklist of companies to contact and sample letters to send.

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