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7 Steps To Protect Your Family from Obituary Scams

Judie Rappaport
July 16, 2015

Dear Judie,

Mom’s (92) in Hospice and isn’t expected to live more than a few weeks. Our large multi-cultural family is chaotic during the best of times--several relatives speak only a few words of English and bring traditions from many different countries; others are the result of second and third remarriages. The first obituary they team-wrote was 750 words long and filled with dangerous personal information! Dad remembered your column on obituary scams--I’m hoping you’ll reprint it.

  • Pat, Vero    

Dear Pat,

Nearly 2.5 million deceased people are victims of identity theft annually. Unfortunately, information found in obituaries gives thieves many opportunities to defraud grieving families. Criminals may:

  • Pose as banking, insurance, or government officials to obtain the deceased’s Social Security number, credit card number, date of birth, driver license numbers and mother’s maiden name.

  • Demand payment of bills allegedly owed by the deceased along with the threat of a lawsuit if payment is not received promptly.

  • Send or deliver expensive items, claiming the deceased ordered it before he passed away.

  • Use information in the death notice to open credit cards.

These seven steps can significantly reduce your chances of becoming a target:   

  1. Limit obituary information to only the year of the deceased’s birth (not month/day). Do not include the maiden name of his/her mother. Avoid home addresses to reduce the number of solicitations as well as the risk of a home break-in while the occupants are at the funeral.

  2. Close bank accounts and credit cards now. Limiting access to financial data is a key preventive measure.

  3. Upon death, immediately contact Social Security to de-activate your loved one’s SSN.

  4. Notify credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) that the individual is deceased. If a thief attempts to open a credit card using the information of the deceased, the fraud will be detected.

  5. After your loved one’s death scrutinize all bills carefully; hang up on phone solicitations.

  6. Remove the deceased’s name from any titles or accounts that might be co-signed with another person.

  7. Removed your loved one’s name from mailing lists and magazine subscriptions to reduce the amount of junk mail and solicitations.

Remember “an ounce of prevention…”—if possible, assign a family member to handle the above prior to publishing the obituary.


Judie Rappaport, President & Founder
Preferred Lifestyle Services

Trust Yourself. You Have the Knowledge, Insight,
and Power to make the right decisions for you and your parent. ©


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