How scammers use obituaries

We all know by now that we shouldn’t make our personal information public (such as addresses, birth dates, birthplace, names of family members, nick-names, even hobbies). However, most of us publicly share personal information just like this when we pay tribute to a loved one in the obituary.

The more information that is provided in the obituary, the greater the risk of scams-both for the deceased and their survivors. Some tips when writing the obituary:

• Give the deceased’s age, but leave out the birth day, middle name, home address, birthplace and mother’s maiden name.

• Even including the names of survivors can pose a risk. Some of the more common scams using obituaries:

• Identity Theft

• Identity theft is not just for the living. Every day, thousands of deceased people are victims. Scammers use details from an obituary to figure out or purchase a Social Security Number (SSN), when allows them to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans, or even file taxes. The SSN is linked to a time and place of birth.

• Grandparents Scam

• Scammers use published obituaries to pose as grandchildren of the deceased, calling grieving survivors with stories about being arrested or some other type of emergency and needing money. These scams seem credible because the scammer cites names and other personal information obtained from obituaries.

• Deceptive Debt Collection

• Scammers often call spouses, children or even siblings to make a claim that survivors must repay the deceased’s debt; not so unless the obligation was cosigned.

• Fictitious Life Insurance

• Scammersmaycontactasurvivorandclaimthedeceasedhasalife insurance policy, but a final premium must be paid prior to collecting the benefits. Legitimate insurance companies don’t request upfront fees.

• Burglary

• If the deceased’s address and time of memorial service are in the obituary, burglars know that no one will be home, so it is best to leave the home address out of the obituary.

The information provided is intended to be a general summary only. Source of information: See Kirchheimer, Sid; Scam-Proof Your Life, AARP Bulletin (March 7, 2018).

North Dakota Senior Medicare Patrol Phone: 800-233-1737 or (701) 858-3580

For more information or to locate your SMP, visit

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90MPPG0021, from the Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.

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