Thieves steal identities of deceased - CBS46 News

Thieves steal identities of deceased

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Lindsey Reichheld felt helpless when she learned the identity of her late wife, Amy, had been stolen after she died.

"It looked like somebody had been requesting death certificates and stealing those identities from the information on the death certificates," she said.

When she called her town to find out who may have requested a copy of Amy's death certificate, she was surprised to learn it's public record.

"The bad guy in this case went onto the obituary section of the local paper, realized someone was deceased and they could access their death certificate," said US Postal Inspector Brian Evans.

It costs only $10 for a copy and most death certificates contain the full names of parents of the deceased as well as addresses and date of birth.

"They went to postal service filed out a change of address form and actually got the mail diverted from the deceased individual to their residence," Evans said.

The thieves then drained the victims' bank accounts and racked up credit card debt.

"In some cases, the victims' families were losing money and they couldn't even pay for the funeral," Evans said.

There were almost a dozen victims and the losses added up to tens of thousands of dollars.

"This criminal took advantage of you when you're at your most vulnerable state, both emotionally and possibly financially," Evans said.

"It's a very devious and fairly smart way of stealing someone's identity because they are not there to care," Reichheld said.

As soon as a death certificate is issued, you should notify the credit bureaus. Also cancel their driver's license and don't give too many details in obituaries.

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