Sifting through the obituaries you can find tributes to parents, children and friends departed. They speak of love and lives well lived. But, these tributes could also be an invitation to thieves, 10News reported.
They are called obit ID thieves and they are making money off the dead.
"Some criminals have learned that impersonating the deceased is a successful way to commit identity theft," said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Thieves cull private information from newspaper obituaries and from the Internet -- mainly genealogy sites that post the Social Security numbers of the deceased taken directly from the Social Security Administration's "master death index."
Tim Wheaton learned the hard way after he wrote his mother's obituary.
"We put in her maiden name and where she lived most of her life. We also put in her surviving family members," Wheaton said.
Wheaton's deceased mother's identity was stolen. He didn't realize the information he published would come back to haunt him and his family.
"Each piece of information just helps the criminal get what they want," said Diane Terry of the Transunion Credit Bureau Fraud Unit.
There are ways to protect your deceased loved one's good name.
Experts say send out death certificates to banks and credit card companies to protect yourself.
"When a family member dies, call the credit bureaus and ask for deceased alert or fraud alert," Terry said. That way if someone tries to open an account, creditors are notified.
Terry also said it's wise to limit personal information in obituaries. And don't delay getting the word out, because thieves act quickly to establish new accounts while there is still a lot of sadness and confusion during a time of death.
Wheaton wishes he had known all this before he wrote his mother's obituary.
"It would certainly be helpful at that emotional moment for someone to mention these sort of concerns," Wheaton said.
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