7 Ways to Protect Your Parent's Good Name

Don't let thieves steal mom or dad's identity after they die.

Sometimes identity thieves scour obituaries or genealogical Web sites for the information they need to steal the identities of the recently deceased -- then run up unauthorized debts against the estate, raid accounts or nab benefits. But all too often, the source of fraud is disgruntled family members or caregivers who have easy access to personal information.

Creditors will forgive debts arising from fraud and financial institutions will restore funds once they have proof of death. But Linda Foley, of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, says families may still incur significant legal costs to resolve those problems.

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Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.