It’s tradition for families to write and publish an obituary in the local newspaper or online when a family member passes away. However, this practice can attract scammers.
Obituary scams typically start with information gleaned from death notices, and can result in fraudsters:
- Accessing personal bank accounts.
- Opening lines of credit.
- Obtaining healthcare.
- Filing fraudulent tax returns.
Money is the primary motivation for obituary fraud. In the event of a death, it isn’t just the decedent’s finances that become vulnerable. Surviving family members, friends and professional connections can become targets as well.
Before preparing the obituary, take a moment to educate yourself on the possible risks involved.
How to write a safer obituary
When you begin writing the obituary, try to omit details that could be used for identity theft including:
- Deceased’s date and place of birth, middle name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name or employment history and home address.
- Personal information of the surviving relatives.
Red flags to watch for
After publishing an obituary, watch for these red flags that suggest a scammer may be targeting you:
- Phone calls, texts or emails from sources other than government officials.
- Debt collectors who stress “immediate” payment or use other scare tactics.
- Being instructed to pay debt via wire transfer or gift cards.
- Receiving bills for credit activity after the account holder’s death.
Other best practices
- Report death to Social Security.
- Send a copy of the death certificate to the IRS.
- Notify banks and other financial institutions and credit reporting bureaus.
- Retrieve copy of the deceased’s credit report.