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Are You Ready to Write an Obituary? 10 Tips to Stay Away From Scams

August 29, 2022

It’s tradition for families to write and publish an obituary in the local newspaper or online when a family member passes away. However, this practice can attract scammers. > Connect with the Center for Healthy Aging Obituary scams typically start with information gleaned from death notices, and can result in fraudsters:

  • Accessing personal bank accounts.
  • Opening lines of credit.
  • Obtaining healthcare.
  • Filing fraudulent tax returns.
Money is the primary motivation for obituary fraud. In the event of a death, it isn’t just the decedent’s finances that become vulnerable. Surviving family members, friends and professional connections can become targets as well. Before preparing the obituary, take a moment to educate yourself on the possible risks involved.

How to write a safer obituary

When you begin writing the obituary, try to omit details that could be used for identity theft including:
  • Deceased’s date and place of birth, middle name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name or employment history and home address.
  • Personal information of the surviving relatives.
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Red flags to watch for

After publishing an obituary, watch for these red flags that suggest a scammer may be targeting you:
  • Phone calls, texts or emails from sources other than government officials.
  • Debt collectors who stress “immediate” payment or use other scare tactics.
  • Being instructed to pay debt via wire transfer or gift cards.
  • Receiving bills for credit activity after the account holder’s death.

Other best practices

  • Report death to Social Security.
  • Send a copy of the death certificate to the IRS.
  • Notify banks and other financial institutions and credit reporting bureaus.
  • Retrieve copy of the deceased’s credit report.