We came across this important article by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life, in the AARP Bulletin:
Protecting the Dead From Identity TheftIdentity thieves are sinking to new lows — specifically, six feet under.
Each year they use the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans and get cellphone or other services, according to fraud prevention firm ID Analytics.
Nearly 800,000 of those deceased are deliberately targeted — roughly 2,200 a day. The identities of the others are used by chance: Crooks make up a number that happens to match that of someone who has died.
It's called "ghosting," and because it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus and the Social Security Administration to receive, share or register death records, the crooks have ample time to rack up charges. Plus, of course, the dead don't monitor their credit — and often, neither do their grieving survivors.
The only good news here is that surviving family members are ultimately not responsible for such charges (or if their names are not on the accounts).