The pernicious activity of identity theft reaches even beyond the grave of a deceased person. One favored activity of con artists in Texas and throughout the country is to steal the identity of a recently deceased individual. If they can access his bank accounts and existing credit cards, they can make a big score against a presumably defenseless victim. However, if you are the immediate next of kin and/or the person legally in charge of the estate administration, you can take quick action to try and prevent this from happening.
The criminal scheme works best if done quickly after death. That is the time when banks, credit companies, and public agencies don't yet know about the death. Thus, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, identity thieves read the obituaries and adopt techniques to try and get a death certificate and other financial information.
Furthermore, with the decedent's social security number they can possibly make false tax returns and collect illegal refunds. But there are steps you can take. One is to keep the vital information out of the obituary, such as birthdate, addresses and mother's maiden name. Additionally, if you are the executor of the estate, or the next of kin, you can get a sufficient number of death certificates to send to all businesses and financial institutions with whom the decedent transacted business.
The credit card companies and financial institutions should be notified immediately. This may be difficult in a period of mourning but it is necessary. The sooner these companies know that the user is deceased, the sooner they will put a hold on use of the account.
It's also advisable for a decedent's estate in Texas to get a copy of the decedent's credit report so that you'll have a full picture of the accounts that the decedent was using. As personal representative in charge of the estate administration, this information helps you to know what companies may still need to be paid their balances due. Again, the key idea to keep in mind is to act quickly to inform all institutions and businesses that the individual is deceased.
Source: The Jackson Sun, "One should act quickly to thwart identity thieves", Randy Hutchinson, Oct. 3, 2014