You hear about it all the time in the news: someone has had their identity stolen, and the identity thief has racked up thousands of dollars in purchases, destroyed the person’s identity, possibly even committed crimes in the real person’s name. It can be devastating to the person whose identity was stolen, and can be expensive and time-consuming to get your identity repaired.
What if instead of your identity, it was a deceased loved one’s identity that had been stolen? It happens, too, unfortunately more often than you think. Identity thieves target people who have died because it can take significantly longer for anyone to clue in to the theft.
The best solution is to be proactive. This is hard to remember when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, but you should contact the credit bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax in Canada) to advise them of the death. This will help to prevent anyone from opening new credit in the person’s name. You should also shred any documents you are not keeping that have personal information on them, like full names, dates of birth, or Social Insurance Numbers. All original ID should be returned to the appropriate government office. You even need to keep an eye on email addresses and social media accounts, and shut them down or memorialize them as soon as possible.
You can’t be held responsible as next of kin for what a fraudster does, but a bit of prevention and awareness can prevent the added stress of a stolen identity.