OPINION

Health and Wellness: Identity theft of deceased

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department

When a loved one passes away and the family is working through both grieving and addressing many legal and financial steps, scammers are poised to take advantage of the situation. Thieves sometimes use a deceased person’s personal information to commit fraud with taxes, social security, or credit cards.

Our Iowa Attorney General protects your family by providing a list of institutions to notify upon the death of a loved one, as well as a list of documents to gather as you settle the estate.  See https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-consumers/general-consumer-information/steps-following-the-death-of-a-loved-one?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery. 

AARP also offers advice (https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-03-2013/protecting-the-dead-from-identity-theft.html) to keep from being targeted.  One tactic of criminals is to use obituaries to gather information that could be used to apply for loans, or get cellphones or other services. Experts advise against obituaries including birthdates, mother’s maiden name, or other information sometimes used as a security question when gaining access to financial information.

At the time of loss, the surviving family should take advantage of supports such as hospice bereavement services and grief support groups. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, there are excellent sources of strength and comfort available by phone and online. Contact the Health Navigators at 515-993-3750 for free help in locating services.