Posted on 21 January, 2021AARP has reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant rise in obituary scams in the US, and whilst we don’t have like for like data for the UK, it stands to reason that with a growing mortality rate (currently +15 per cent above average) that the same will be happening here.
Obituary scams, also known as bereavement swindles, typically start with information gleaned from death notices in newspapers or posted online. Fraudsters harvest facts commonly included in obituaries — such as the deceased’s birth date, where the person lived and worked, and family members’ names — to start building a profile to use for identity theft.
With just a few key details, fraudsters can locate and purchase more data about the deceased individual on the dark web and then use that information to access or create financial accounts, take out loans, file tax returns buy large amounts of goods on credit - all under the deceased’s name, which is a form of ID theft known as deceased identity fraud or ghosting.
For the bereaved AARP has issued advice for writing obituaries which includes not publishing too much personal information. It recommends leaving out details that could be used for identity theft, such as the deceased’s date and place of birth, middle name, maiden name and mother’s maiden name. Obituaries should not include the deceased’s home address and try to avoid publishing the date and time of the funeral.
Fraudsters are fond of obituary scams because the victims are either deceased, so they’re unable to monitor financial accounts and credit reports for unusual activity, or they are bereaved and emotionally vulnerable and therefore potentially more prone to manipulation – such as being conned into paying a bogus outstanding debt.
For organisations, this increase in obituary scams translates into greater attempts at deceased identity fraud, which already costs millions each year. Consequently, having processes in place to identify potential fraudulent applications for credit is critical. Our deceased fraud prevention product, Halo, enables companies to screen their data against known lists of deceased individuals so that if an order or application comes in using the personal information of someone that has passed away it can be investigated and the potential fraud stopped.
If you are an organisation wanting to reduce the impact of deceased identity fraud, please contact us for further information. Or if you suspect that a deceased friend or relative’s identity has been stolen call Action Fraud immediately for help and advice on what to do next on 0300 123 2040