Beware of scammers who steal the identities of the dead

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When a loved one passes away and the family is both grieving and working through many legal and financial steps, scammers are poised to exploit the situation and harm the most vulnerable.

Thieves sometimes use a deceased person’s personal information in order to commit fraud with taxes, Social Security or credit cards.

The office of the Iowa Attorney General protects your loved one’s identity by providing a list of institutions to notify upon the death of a loved one, as well as a list of documents to gather as you settle the estate. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also offers advice to keep from being targeted.

One tactic of criminals is to use obituaries to gather information that could be used to apply for loans or get cellphones or other services. Experts advise against obituaries that include birthdates, mother’s maiden name or other information sometimes used as a security question when gaining access to financial information.

At the time of loss, the surviving family should take advantage of supports, such as hospice bereavement services and grief support groups. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, there are excellent sources of strength and comfort available by phone and online.

Contact the Dallas County Pubic Health Department Health Navigators at 515-993-3750 for free help in locating services.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Pubic Health Department.

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