Ghosting: Scam Artists Steal the Identities of the Deceased
February 21, 2011
Ashley here from AllClear ID. It’s sad to even discuss, but true: “Ghosting” is a form of identity theft that occurs when someone steals the identity of the deceased, and in some cases, even their role in society.
People usually do this to cover up for something that happened in their past. Recently, a news outlet in Oregon reported the story of a man who stole a murdered Ohio boy’s identity and used it for 15 years. The man is now awaiting sentencing in a Portland jail. The man is from Bulgaria, and made a bad decision as a college student which led him to feel the need to steal this boy’s identity and move to a new state. His fraudulent act was uncovered during a routine data search against passport applicants and deceased citizens. This operation (known as Operation Death Match) led the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service to the suspect.
With these types of crimes happening more frequently, it is important to protect your relatives and friends’ identities even after death. Here are few things to think about if you have lost someone and are concerned about their identity:
- Obituaries – Be cautious about what kind of information is posted in an obituary. Identity thieves check them often, as they are looking for the right identity to steal. Ghosters (ID thieves) will go after a deceased person with similar characteristics such as age, race, nationality, and etc.
- Close accounts – Cancel all financial, medical, government, and online accounts in the deceased person’s name. This can stop an identity theft from occurring if these agencies are informed before a Ghoster tries to use their identity. Closing all accounts – from an email to Facebook – is important to stop this from happening even years down the road.
- Personal documents – Treat any sensitive documents, identification, and records with care. Stealing or finding these documents are extremely valuable to identity thieves.
As hard as it is to deal with the loss of a friend or relative, it is important to protect their identity. You can always sign their name up for identity protection alerts to find out if anything pops up, which can give you a signal that someone might be using their identity.