It’s been a trying and stressful few years as your family watched your fun-loving, intelligent and physically active father deteriorate to a shell of his former self after the onset of dementia. Now, he has died. You’ve made the funeral arrangements, probated his Will, held an estate sale, put the family home on the market, and distributed his assets. There are so many things a family must do in this situation, but there’s one that often gets overlooked.

Millions of the dead have identities stolen each year

Protecting your deceased loved one from identity theft is a something that many families neglect and don’t realize may actually happen. However, thieves are aware of the opportunities to pocket money and purchase items by using the identity of someone who has died.

Each year, the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans are misused, according to San Diego-based ID Analytics, a fraud prevention company. Criminals use these identities to open credit card accounts, apply for loans, buy smartphones, etc.

Steps to protect the deceased from ID theft

Surviving family members are not responsible for repaying illegitimate charges on their dead relatives’ accounts. Still, a grieving family doesn’t need this additional stress. You can try to avoid this scenario by:

•· Rethinking how you write an obituary and do not include dates of birth, maiden names and other personal information that will make it easier for identity thieves. Also, don’t include the decedent’s address to reduce the chances of a home burglary.

•· Notifying the Social Security Administration about the death, especially if the decedent collected a government benefit.

•· Accessing the deceased loved one’s credit reports at annualcreditreport.com to gain a better understanding of open financial accounts, and contact all creditors listed there to inform them that the person has died.

•· Using certified mail with “return receipt,” write to the three large credit bureaus, notifying them of the death and asking to have the death noted in the credit file. Include a copy of the death certificate.

Elder fraud can continue beyond the lives of your loved ones. Unscrupulous individuals will try to take advantage of people – even those who have died. The death of a loved one is a stressful time for families, so it helps to avoid scams that may cause more problems.