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
Pay day loan services provide short-term loans in exchange for immediate cash. To qualify for a pay day loan all a person needs, including a criminal, is an active bank account, an ID, and proof of income, all of which can be obtained on the black market. It is extremely important that you notify all your deceased loved one's financial institutions of their passing and have those accounts closed as soon as possible. Thieves frequently seek out recently deceased persons' information, so they can quickly use it between the time of the deceased's passing and the time the family gets around to dealing with finalizing their affairs. If you have an identity theft protection service, they will monitor criminal underground websites and other criminal hangouts to detect the use of your loved one's personal information so you don't have to. Having such a service would be helpful because that is one less thing you have to worry about at such a difficult time.
Black Market Surveillance
Black market surveillance uses monitoring systems similar to those used for SSN monitoring. Black market surveillance monitors thousands of known criminal websites, chat rooms, and a variety of internet databases to look for the illegal buying, selling, or trading of your deceased loved one's personal information. This feature looks for the use of your loved one's SSN, driver's license number, and email address, among other things. And, if their personal information is found, you will be notified immediately, at which time you should contact the identity theft protection service you chose to monitor your loved one's information, so they can work on resolving it for you.
Social Media Monitoring
The last thing most people think about after losing a loved one is their social media accounts. However, hackers frequently seek out the social media pages of the deceased so they can obtain their personal information to fraudulently use their identity. Therefore, it is extremely important to deactivate your loved one's social media accounts as soon as possible after they have passed. Additionally, using an identity theft protection service that monitors social media websites will provide you with another layer of protection for your deceased loved one's identity. Social media monitoring uses similar technology as is used in SSN monitoring and black market surveillance monitoring to scan thousands of internet databases and underground websites looking for the fraudulent use of your deceased loved one's personal information.
Dark Web Monitoring
Dark web monitoring is another feature that is similar to SSN monitoring and black market surveillance. Dark web monitoring specifically monitors underground hacker websites, forums, chat rooms, and other places where identity thieves commonly buy, sell, and trade stolen identities. If your deceased loved one's personal information is detected, you will receive an alert so you can respond accordingly.
Bank Account Takeovers
Bank account takeovers can happen to the deceased just as easily, if not more so, than any other bank account take over for a living person. That's why it is so important to have identity theft protection for your loved one's identity even after they have passed. A bank account take over is a form of theft in which the hacker obtains access to a person's bank, credit card, or other financial accounts. This is usually enabled through a data breach, malware, or some other type of phishing scam. Once a person's account numbers and access to their financial accounts occurs, the hacker can then either use it to make unauthorized purchases or they can buy, sell, and/or trade it on the dark web or to any other identity theft ring.
Court Record Monitoring
Court record monitoring is another feature that is necessary for the deceased. This is because criminals often seek out the identity of a deceased person so they can steal their personal information and use it to avoid arrest and commit crimes in your loved one's name. And while this obviously won't affect your loved one, it could, however, lead back to you should an investigation occur. And, of course, you don't want the good name of your loved one tarnished either. They left this world in good standing and I'm sure you would like to keep it that way. So court record monitoring actually scans public court records looking for your deceased loved one's personal information and will alert you if anything is detected.
Sex Offender Registration
Obviously, your loved one will no longer care about a sex offender living nearby once they have passed. However, having the sex offender registration feature through an identity theft protection service will help make sure a sex offender is not using their personal information to hide their true identity from law enforcement or anyone else for that matter. This feature tracks local and national sex offender registry databases to look for the use of your deceased's personal information. If their information is found, you should contact the FBI or your local state officials immediately.
Credit Activity Alerts
Credit activity alerts are one way to instantly know that someone has stolen and is using your deceased loved one's identity. An identity theft protection service monitors any suspicious charges made to the deceased's credit cards before they are closed. This feature also monitors one or more of your deceased loved one's credit reports for changes to their credit score, credit file, or anything else regarding their credit that might appear as if it is suspicious activity. If detected, they will notify you immediately so you can respond accordingly.
Social security number monitoring is probably the most important feature you will need for monitoring your deceased loved one's identity. Social security monitoring scours internet data using advanced technology and artificial intelligence to detect if your deceased loved one's social security number is being used fraudulently. If your deceased loved one's social security number is detected on the black market, dark web, or any underground website, you will be alerted so you can take action.