Identity thieves can strike even after death. An identity thief's use of a deceased person's Social Security number may create problems for family members. This type of identity theft also victimizes merchants, banks, and other businesses that provide goods and services to the thief.
What happens to your Social Security number after you die? The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a national file of reported deaths for the purpose of paying appropriate benefits. The file contains the following information: Social Security number, name, date of birth, date of death, state of last known residence, and zip code of last lump sum payment.
The SSA generally receives reports of death from a family member or a funeral home. Sometimes delays in reporting can provide time for identity thieves to collect enough personal information to open credit accounts or take other fraudulent actions using the deceased's information. To prevent this from happening, a surviving spouse or other authorized individual, such as an executor, can notify the credit bureaus. This will ensure that the deceased's files are flagged with a "deceased" notation.
Signs of possible identity theft include calls from a creditor or collection agency on an account opened or used in the deceased's name after death. If you discover such signs, contact the affected creditor or collection agency in writing, explaining that the account was opened or used fraudulently. See sample letter attached.
In most cases, a funeral director will report the person's death to SSA. To ensure the death is reported promptly, a family member can make a report directly to an SSA representative by calling SSA toll-free, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit SSA for How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies.
To flag the credit files of a person who is deceased, the surviving spouse or executor needs to notify the three national credit bureaus in writing. The surviving spouse or executor must include the following specific information along with the alert request: 1) a copy of death certificate, and 2) proof of executorship or marriage. Then mail the notification documents to the credit bureaus at the addresses below.
P.O Box 105518
Atlanta, GA 30348-5518
Experian National Consumer Assistance Center
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
For your convenience, we've developed the following sample letters for your use. One of the letters may be used to notify the credit bureaus. The other may be used to inform a creditor or collection agency of suspected identity theft involving a deceased person's information.
Sample Letter to Credit Bureaus Notifying of Death
Sample Letter to Creditor or Collection Agency on Account Opened/Accessed in Deceased's Name