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Identity thieves go after the dead

Apr 30, 2012 Philip Burgess

Many identity thieves add extra financial burdens to people, who often find out their personal information was stolen when they find they can't get a loan or when a debt recovery service comes calling. However, some particularly wily criminals are taking advantage of people who can no longer check their credit reports or work with collectors - Americans who have passed away. A recent ID Analytics ID:A Labs release found information of 2.5 million deceased Americans is used each year to make fraudulent purchases and open illegal lines of credit. Annually, 800,000 Americans that have passed away are intentionally targeted as conduits for illegal financial activities. Sometimes, though people can make an honest mistake and make typos when applying for a credit card using a Social Security Number. The study said in 1.6 million applications, the number of a dead person was used by mistake. Out of 100 million credit applications, approximately 6.8 million have partial matches to numbers listed on the Social Security Administration's Death Master File. The personal data of terminally ill people is also being used for illegal purchases, perhaps because they are more concerned with health issues than regularly checking their financial information. Dr Stephen Coggeshall explained that information belonging to more than 2,000 deceased Americans is stolen daily to fund illegal financial activities. "It is important for people to monitor their deceased family member's identities for at least one year and a good way is with identity theft protection services," Coggeshall detailed to MSNBC. According to MSNBC, there are measures that can be taken by credit bureaus to safeguard against this type of identity theft once presented with proper documentation, including a death certificate. Experian's website explained the process bureaus would take. The website said that credit reports of the dead are flagged to prevent further lines of credit being opened, but credit history is not deleted, so that family members and bureaus can monitor the file in case identity theft occurs. Lenders and credit firms may be interested in this information and want to pay closer attention to Social Security Numbers on loan applications. Companies that let consumers borrow money should check the numbers listed against the master list of the Social Security Administration to ensure they will not be scammed out of receiving payments.