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You can protect yourself from “ghosters” while you’re still around

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2024 | Estate Planning

You’ve probably heard of people having their identities stolen after they’re dead. This often involves using people’s identifying information (and sometimes actual documents) to open credit cards, bank accounts and more. These identity thieves are known as “ghosters.”

Sadly, they often take advantage of the fact that surviving loved ones often don’t immediately close accounts (or at least monitor them), secure personal information and notify entities like the Social Security Administration (SSA) and others of someone’s death. Ghosters don’t need long to start wreaking havoc, sometimes stealing money that should have gone to heirs and other beneficiaries.

As you commence putting your estate plan in place, you can also take steps to help protect your loved ones (and your legacy) from identity thieves and other fraudsters. Here are two important things you can do now.

Make a list of entities to notify

Leaving your executor thorough and well-organized information is a good first step. Prepare a list (and update as necessary) of all of your accounts, credit cards, loans or lines of credit, insurance policies, benefits and more.

If you’re the sole name on your accounts and other financial products, they should be closed or frozen as soon as possible. If you’re getting Social Security, VA, Medicaid or other benefits, those agencies also need to be notified. By doing this as quickly as possible, your executor can minimize the chances of fraud or at least shift the liability to those parties. It’s still wise to review the activity, so make sure your executor knows where to locate your passwords and other log-in credentials.

Help your executor locate and secure important documents

Make sure your executor knows where to find your IDs, credit cards, passports and other documents with personal and financial information. They should secure these right away so that no one takes them, throws them away or moves them. One piece of identifying information can be enough to steal someone’s identity.

Having a thorough, legally sound estate plan is important. However, if your executor can’t access needed information, their job will be a lot harder. As you’re completing your estate plan or modifying it, take some time to talk with your designated executor (and any alternates) to go over this information with them. Your estate planning professional will likely have other helpful advice to protect your identity and assets from fraud.