Identity theft can have massive negative effects on millions of people nationwide every year, but today, even many victims who are no longer living may be susceptible to being ripped off by criminals.
These days, there are a number of websites frequented by criminals that contain a wealth of personal information on the recently deceased. Criminals then can in turn exploit the information to file falsified documents for the purposes of identity theft, according to a report from Tampa, Fla., television station WFTS. These sites sell information on dead people, culled from the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File,” which contains information including the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for some 89 million people.
Ostensibly, this file can provide a legitimate amount of protection to the recently deceased, as it will alert lenders, insurers and other companies that a person with the information being used is no longer living, and therefore the request should be denied, the report said. However, this doesn’t always work, and some requests for credit or coverage in a dead person’s name will occasionally slip through the cracks, and cause significant difficulties for their families as a result.
However, federal agencies are aware of the problems these sites can cause and are now trying to do more to keep close tabs on them, the report said. Some lawmakers’ efforts have led to the closure of many of these sites, most of which operate as legitimate businesses.
“The IRS is taking active steps to identify those websites, and we’re working with our external stakeholders to try and create more of an alertness about this,” assistant special agent Ismael Nevarez, Jr., told the station.
In general, consumers who are wary of how identity theft might affect them or their family members should keep a few things in mind, including that they need to do more personally to protect the information crooks looking to perpetrate these crimes might want. That includes personal data such as names and Social Security numbers, as well as financial information like credit card numbers, bank account details, PIN codes, and more. Identity theft can unfortunately take many forms, and affect consumers in ways that they may not anticipate, and for this reason it’s also vital to keep close tabs on all financial documents throughout the year, including credit card bills, bank statements and credit reports.
This blog post originally appeared on Credit.com.