The identities of millions of deceased Americans are being used to apply for credit cards by criminals in the US, a study has found.
Analysis of more than 100 million credit card applications in the first three months of last year, by risk management firm ID Analytics, has revealed that credit card fraudsters are using the deceased’s details to establish accounts.
It was found that as many as 2.5 million deceased Americans have had their identities stolen by criminals, including names, dates of birth and Social Security Numbers.
The research compared the data from more than 100 million credit card applications with data from the US database of deceased people – called the Death Master File.
The comparison found that in most cases the use of the deceased’s personal information was used by criminals by mistake.
Around 1.6 million of the fraudulent applications were found to be mistakes made by identity thieves when entering Social Security Numbers.
In addition, the research found that in some cases thieves make up the names, Social Security Numbers and birthdays which coincidently match the information of the deceased.
However, in many cases the use of this information was intentional. It was found that in around 800,000 cases identity thieves were intentionally tapping the Death Master File for information to use on credit card applications.
“This study brings to light a significant problem as we see fraudsters intentionally using identities of the deceased at the rate of more than 2,000 per day,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at ID Analytics.
“While this is clearly a problem for businesses, surviving family members can also be the victims of this identity fraud as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones.”
So it appears that anyone can be the victim of credit card fraud, alive or dead. It is a problem that is seen not just in America, but in the UK too.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of credit card fraud. These include keeping a close eye on your credit card use, checking your statement regularly, and alerting your card provider immediately should you lose your card.
Another way to avoid becoming the victim of fraud is to invest in a prepaid credit card. These work in the same way as a credit card, with much of the same benefits, but offer much more security.
Prepaid cards are not tied to a bank account, and have a pre-loaded amount on them, so are a lot harder for criminals to target.