Identity Fraud and Consumer Theft

Identity Theft of a Dead Person

Identity theft and your loved ones


That’s right - Death cannot even save some people from being violated by the crime of identity theft. Some horrible examples of this fact are:

  • A young couple had their tax form rejected by the IRS when they listed their deceased toddler as a dependant. Someone else had already claimed the child!
  • A mother keeps getting collection notices from agencies trying to collect on her daughter’s credit cards. The daughter had been deceased for 17 years!
  • After the World Trade Center attack, a widow found that someone had been living and working using her husband’s information. He had died in the tragedy!

It is so sad, but even those who have passed away are not safe from identity thieves.

Obtaining information about deceased individuals is not all that difficult, and it can be accomplished in various ways. Watching obituaries may give the thief a target, and then stealing the death certificate of the deceased or getting information about the deceased can complete the identity theft. Many identity thefts which are perpetrated on the deceased can be linked back to websites that have a Social Security Death Index file. Although only to be used for genealogy research, they can also be used to find information to take someone’s identity.


Unfortunately, it has been shown that the thief can easily be a family member who is taking advantage of a death. Sometimes that family member has been using the other identity for a while before the death, especially if the person who’s identity was stolen had suffered from a long, debilitating illness, or had some form of mental confusion.


Don’t count on the Social Security Administration to inform the financial industry of a death through its Death Master File. Even to this day, that file is not complete! That means it is up to you to notify the three major credit reporting agencies and any creditors of the person’s death. Until they are notified, they keep the accounts open…and they will remain open for as long as 10 years, even with no activity! Those performing the identity theft count on this fact and take advantage of it if they can.