Increasingly, people are writing their own obituaries as part of their estate planning. It’s an excellent way to help ensure that you’re remembered in the way you want to be. These days, obituaries don’t just appear in the local newspaper. Online sites like Legacy.com can let friends and acquaintances from around the country and beyond read your obituary, share condolences and contribute money to a favorite charity in your memory.
Unfortunately, these obituaries too often provide a treasure trove of information for identity thieves and scammers who can use the information to steal your identity or trick unsuspecting loved ones.
How obituaries can be used for illegal activity
Obituaries too often provide enough details about the deceased person and their family for scammers to do any of the following:
- Access the deceased person’s accounts
- Get loans or credit cards in the deceased person’s name
- Contact the surviving loved ones claiming the deceased owed them money
- Tell surviving loved ones they’re the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and need their account information to send them their money
Scammers are able to access deceased people’s accounts and convince even fairly savvy loved ones they are who they say they are because information like the following was included in the obituary about the deceased:
- Their full name and maiden or previous names
- Their parents’ names
- Where they were born and went to school
- Places they’ve lived
- Favorite vacation destinations, hobbies and groups they belong to
- Current and former employers
- Military service
- Relatives’ names and other information about them
- Pets’ names
Some of this information is commonly used as answers to security questions to access accounts. It can also be used to persuade grieving loved ones that someone knew the deceased or are otherwise legitimate. Whether you’re writing your own obituary or a loved one’s, you can craft a thorough and fitting narrative without providing unnecessary details that, sadly, can be used for harm.
If you’re administering a loved one’s estate, you can further prevent scams by notifying financial institutions, Social Security, credit reporting agencies and others of the death and closing or freezing accounts. Having legal guidance can help you protect your loved ones and your assets from being stolen.