After the Loss of a Loved One, Watch Out for Scams

Person typing on a computer protecting themselves from fraud

Scam artists often prey on those who are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, this includes individuals who have recently lost a loved one and are easily taken advantage of during their time of grief. Scammers will look for details from obituaries, funeral homes, hospitals, stolen death certificates, and social media websites to obtain personal information about a deceased individual and use it to commit fraud.

A common scam after the loss of a loved one, often referred to as "ghosting," is when an identity thief uses personal information obtained from an obituary to assume the identity of a deceased individual. That information is then used to access or open financial accounts, take out loans, and file fraudulent tax returns to collect refunds. Typically, a ghosting scam will occur shortly after someone's death — before it has even been reported to banks, credit reporting agencies, or government organizations such as the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Another scam involves scam artists using information from an obituary to pass themselves off as a friend or associate of the deceased — sometimes referred to as a "bereavement" or "imposter" scam. These individuals will falsely claim a personal or financial relationship with the deceased in order to scam money from grieving loved ones. Scam artists will also pose as government officials or debt collectors falsely seeking payment for a deceased individual's unpaid bill.

If you recently experienced the loss of a loved one, consider the following tips to help reduce the risk of scams:

  • Report the death to the SSA and IRS as soon as possible.

  • Notify banks and other financial institutions that the account holder is deceased.

  • Contact your state's department of motor vehicles and ask them to cancel the deceased's driver's license.

  • Ask the major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to put a "deceased alert" on the deceased person's credit reports and monitor them for unusual activity.

  • Avoid putting too much personal information in an obituary, such as a birth date, place of birth, address, or mother's maiden name.

  • Be wary of individuals who try to coerce or pressure you over alleged debts owed by the deceased.

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Copyright 2006- Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. 

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