Wednesday, June 27, 2018


I've spent the last few days investigating Obituary Scams, and have come away horrified by what I've learned. This article is aimed mostly at people who are 65 and older, but feel free to utilize the ideas herein for any family member who dies. Here are a few of the possible types of abuse/scam that are prevalent. This list comes from AARP Bulletin - March 2008 and I've researched to make sure the info is correct and as complete as possible. First the list, then some solutions.

  • Identity Theft - Contact credit card companies to cancel cards and send requests to the three major credit bureaus to flag the person's accounts as deceased.
  • Deceptive Debt Collection - Crooks often call family and try to get survivors to pay unsubstantiated claims - the debts left behind should be handled by the estate, not the family!
  • Fictitious Life Insurance - Claims that the deceased took out a large loan from their life insurance can encourage family to pay the loan off. Let the estate handle these claims.
  • Burglary - If the time of the memorial is published, it is possible that burglars may attempt to break in while the family and neighbors are away at the services. Best to ask one neighbor to stay at home and watch the property.
Details included in an obituary can help scammers reach out to family members and, while they are grieving expose them to falling prey to scams. The best approach is to not publish an obituary, but as most of us find that unacceptable, try these things to lower the chances of being targeted.
  • Include the name of the individual, don't include any nicknames, a maiden name or former names.
  • Do not include birth place or any other information that could help crooks scam the family. (The first five digits of a Social Security number are linked to a time and place of birth.)
  • Do not include names of spouse, children or other family members. Instead say things like "survived my loving spouse, children, grandchildren, etc." A list of accomplishments, organizations they belonged to and other personal information can help scammers, so be careful.
  • Write an obituary while you are still alive, go over the fine points of your life and make sure your family is protected after you're gone. This is a great way to remove the problem of family trying to write an obituary after you're gone and make sure that what is published fits everyone's needs. Make sure you revisit it once a year to be sure it is still relevant. And I suggest you keep it on top of your refrigerator with your living will. If you don't yet have a living will - I'll be discussing that at a later time.

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