Most people do not realize that identity theft happens even after someone has died. In fact, thieves deliberately target the deceased, so they can use their identity fraudulently. This is called “ghosting” and identity thieves use several sources to find their deceased victims. That is why having an identity theft protection service monitor your deceased loved one’s personal information is so important.
1. Identity Guard
Identity Guard has been around since 1996 and has helped resolve more than 140,000 cases of identity theft. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have many awards and accolades which include being recognized in the Online Trust Audit and Honor Roll for the last six consecutive years. This was issued by the Online Trust Alliance for Identity Guard’s role in ensuring the best practices in data security and privacy. Not to mention their advanced artificial intelligence technology system, Watson. This system sorts through billions of pieces of data to look for any given person’s identity vulnerabilities, then makes that person, or the person responsible for the deceased’s identity, aware of those issues immediately.
- Social security number monitoring
- IBM Watson artificial intelligence system
- A one million dollar identity theft protection insurance policy
- U.S.-based dedicated case managers
- One to three credit bureau monitoring (depending on your plan)
- Dark web monitoring
- Offers a wide range of monitoring and helpful alerts
- Basic plan has limited coverage
- Upper tier plans are comparatively pricey
- No money-back guarantee
Identity Guard has six service plans—three individual plans and three family plans. So unless you are planning to use this service for yourself then add the deceased to it, you will only need to consider an individual plan. But we will give you the information for all of them just in case. The individual plans are as follows: Value plan for $8.99/mo., Total plan for $19.99/mo., Premier plan for $24.99/mo.
The family plans are as follows: Value plan for $14.99/mo., Total plan for $29.99/mo., Premier plan for $34.99/mo., and, yes, the names for both the individual plans and the family plans are the same—only the prices are different.
The available features are as follows and are dependent on the plan you choose. Watson AI, one million in protection insurance, U.S.-based dedicated case manager, online identity dashboard, mobile app, dark web activity, 3-bureau credit report changes, bank account takeovers, new checking and savings account requests, and other potential fraudulent activity that is detected by Watson.
LifeLock is an identity theft protection industry leader and have been since 2005. They have over 4.4 million customers, as well as a 4.5-Star Google rating from more than 9,000 customer reviews. LifeLock offers a full suite of identity theft services that would benefit anyone looking for identity theft protection for a deceased person. Additionally, LifeLock is a stable company that has amassed a plethora of awards and accolades throughout the years.
- Credit bureau monitoring
- A million dollar protection package
- A 60-day money-back guarantee
- LifeLock mobile app
- Dark web monitoring
- Lawyer and expert resources provided
- USPS address change verification
- Minimal protections offered on the basic plan
- Live member support not included on all plans
- Upper tier plans are expensive
LifeLock offers three protection plans. The Standard is $9.99/mo., the Advantage is $19.99/mo., and the Ultimate Plus is $29.99/mo. Any of these would be helpful when it comes to identity theft protection for the deceased; however, some, but not all the features on the upper tier plan would be beneficial in this situation. Therefore, you will have to decide if it’s worth paying the extra just to get the bank and new account takeover and the priority live member support features. Everything else on the Ultimate Plus plan would be irrelevant for the deceased. And all the other features that are included can also be found on the Advantage plan, which is probably the one that would be the most helpful when it comes to identity theft protection for the deceased.
LifeLock includes the following features on the two bottom tier plans and which of those features you get will depend on the plan you choose. These plans include some or all of the following features. SSN and credit alerts, a million dollar protection package, coverage for lawyers and other experts, a U.S.-based restoration team, USPS address change verification, dark web monitoring, one to three credit bureau monitoring, bank and credit card activity alerts, and fictitious identity monitoring. LifeLock also includes some other features; however, we didn’t list them here because they really are not necessary when providing identity theft protection for the deceased.
*LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
**The credit scores provided are VantageScore 3.0 credit scores based on data from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion respectively. Any one bureau VantageScore mentioned is based on Equifax data only. Third parties use many different types of credit scores and are likely to use a different type of credit score to assess your creditworthiness.
EZShield recently merged with IdentityForce to provide the very best in digital identity theft protection and cybersecurity. They have over 40 years of experience, are a GSA Tier One provider for the government, and they use advanced detection technology. Their services come with a million dollar insurance policy, and they are a Global 1000 organization. IdentityForce’s services are used by millions of people, and they are rated number one by many industry leaders. They were also named the 2017 Identity Protection Service Provider Best-In-Class Award Winner by Javelin Strategy & Research.
- Real-time alerts
- A 14-day free trial
- Fully managed restoration services
- A Million dollar insurance policy
- Advanced detection technology
- A 100% identity recovery guarantee
- Advanced fraud monitoring available
- Manual cancellation after the trial period (it is not automatic)
- A bit pricey compared to others (but more services are offered)
- No basic support available on major holidays
IdentityForce offers two protection plans. The UltraSecure plan is $17.99/mo. or $179.90/yr. Then there is the upper tier package which is the UltraSecure+Credit plan and it is $23.99/mo. or $239.90/yr. which is a bit pricey, but worth it.
The UltraSecure plan comes with a variety of helpful services such as advanced monitoring for a change of address, dark web monitoring, various court records, social media identity, bank and credit card activity, and more. Probably the most important feature when it comes to identity theft protection for the deceased is the smart SSN tracker. This is because that feature is the one that specifically monitors the use of your deceased loved one’s social security number on the dark web and other internet databases for fraudulent activity.
If you are looking for identity theft protection for a deceased person, you could opt for either plan; however, a deceased person probably isn’t going to need all the additional protections included in the upper tier plan. The UltraSecure+Credit is the upper tier plan and it includes 3-credit bureau monitoring and 3-credit bureau reports (which are helpful), but the 3-credit bureau credit scores, the credit score tracker, and the credit score simulator are not really needed for the deceased.
How Does a Deceased Person’s Identity Get Stolen?
There are several ways a deceased person’s identity could be stolen. Identity thieves browse the obituaries for a name, age, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and other personal identifiers. They also search social media websites and the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, also known as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) which is a database of persons for whose death was reported. This database is considered a public document and it is available under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Death Master File is put out by the Social Security Administration to all state and local governments. They also send it to the hospitals and other legitimate entities such as financial institutions and universities. Additionally, anyone can pay for access to the files, because as we mentioned above, this is available to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act.
Other ways identity thieves might attempt to claim a deceased person’s identity is by:
- Falsely claiming to be an executor so they can receive the deceased’s government benefits.
- Using the deceased’s SSN to take over their bank accounts and other financial assets.
- By gaining access to a deceased’s medical information file so they can try to have a drug payment card reissued and sent to their address.
How to Protect a Deceased Person from Identity Theft
Obviously, the best way to protect a deceased person from identity theft is to enlist the help of an identity theft protection service. However, there are other things you can do for additional protection and to hopefully prevent it from happening in the first place.
The best thing to do is not to put too much information out there about the deceased. In the obituary, you can include the deceased person’s age, but don’t include their birth date or any other personal information. Privately notify people about the deceased’s passing rather than posting it on their social media pages where a hacker could gain access to it. And think about any other announcements you make and be aware of the possibility that that information, if posted, could be used for identity theft purposes before you include it.
You can also notify the credit bureaus once your loved one has passed. Then check the deceased’s credit report for any fraudulent activity. If there is fraudulent activity, then identity thieves have already actively used the deceased’s information and you will need to contact the identity theft protection service you are using to get them to assist in resolving it.
You should also contact all credit card companies, financial institutions, insurance brokers, stockbrokers, and anyone else who had dealings with the deceased and notify them of that person’s death.
Other proactive measures include putting a credit freeze on their credit bureaus and ask them to put a “do not issue credit” flag on the deceased’s file. Contact the department of motor vehicles and cancel the deceased’s driver’s license. And, close all their social media accounts and digital assets.
Signs That a Deceased Loved One’s Identity Has Been Stolen
The signs that a deceased loved one’s identity has been stolen are very similar to the signs that are present when a living person’s identity has been stolen.
- Your deceased loved one starts receiving bills or past due notices for purchases made after they have passed.
- You start receiving bank, brokerage, credit card or other account documents that show transactions or other information after the deceased loved one has passed.
- You start receiving two-factor authentication alerts for your loved one’s accounts.
- Your loved one suddenly starts receiving direct mail and phone solicitations for expensive items.
- You start receiving alerts that your loved one’s credit score has gone up.
- You check your loved one’s credit bureau reports and see unauthorized accounts or other fraudulent information.
Be particularly diligent after a loved one passes because identity thieves know you, your family, and your loved one’s friends are more vulnerable during this time. Identity thieves have even been known to show up at the funeral or seek out those closest to the deceased to try and befriend them to fish for information about the deceased from mourners. Therefore, instruct everyone associated with the deceased to remain silent about the deceased and the affairs of the deceased, especially about any significant assets they might have.
Features of Identity Theft Services for Deceased
Pay Day Loan Monitoring
Payday Loan Monitoring is fast-becoming a top feature for those looking to protect their deceased loved one’s identity. After all, a criminal only needs an active bank account, an ID, and proof of income to apply and secure a high-interest payday loan. With payday loan monitoring, you can fend off fraudsters and rest a little easier in this difficult time.
Black Market Surveillance
Black Market Surveillance is another powerful feature to protect your late loved one and yourself. The technology monitors thousands of criminal websites, chat rooms, and databases for their sensitive info. From SSN’s and driver’s license numbers, to email addresses and everything in-between — this service will alert you at the first sign of foul play. After all, knowing is half the battle.
Social Media Monitoring
There’s no denying that cybercriminals are social savvy. So it’s a wise move to find an identity theft protection service that offers social media monitoring. This helpful feature is especially important for the recently deceased, as criminals are lurking these platforms just waiting for an easy target. Another smart move is to deactivate their social accounts as soon as possible.
Dark Web Monitoring
Here’s a high-tech feature that could save you from confusion and financial loss in these hard times. The dark web is a stronghold for cybercriminals where they buy, sell, and trade stolen identities. So Dark Web Monitoring is the ideal solution to counteract the attacks. It monitors these hacker havens and alerts you if your deceased loved one’s info is found.
Bank Account Takeovers
It’s important to invest in identity theft protection for a family member who has passed away. But not just any service will do. Look for features like Bank Account Takeovers. The truth is, your loved one’s financials and credit cards could be at risk, even after their passing. Put an iron cage around their accounts with Bank Account Takeover protection.
Court Record Monitoring
Another sophisticated feature, Court Record Monitoring continually scans public court records for your late loved one’s sensitive information. Because some criminals stop at nothing to avoid arrest. They’ll claim a false identity — often the identity of the recently deceased — to sidestep a trip to the slammer. So be aware of this dirty tactic and beat it with Court Record Monitoring.
Sex Offender Registration
The thought of it alone will turn your stomach. Some sex offenders steal and claim the identity of the deceased in order to secure jobs, homes, cars, you name it. But with this feature, your ID theft protection service monitors the national sex offender registry database to ensure your loved one’s identity isn’t being used by a pervert or predator.
Credit Activity Alerts
A simple alert can save you countless headaches. Credit Activity Alerts are a staple feature offered by identity theft protection services for the deceased. Be the first to know if a suspicious charge is made to your deceased loved one’s credit cards. You’ll also get credit report monitoring, as changes to their credit status is a telltale sign of fraud.
Fraudsters love social security numbers — especially the SSN’s of the deceased. That’s why SSN Monitoring is a valuable feature with any ID theft protection service. Rest assured this advanced technology combs through millions of internet data points searching for your late loved one’s SSN being used fraudulently. And of course, you’ll be notified at the first sign of suspicious activity.