What Is a Deceased Alert?

A deceased alert is a notification that makes credit card companies, credit rating agencies, and other financial institutions aware that a person has died. These notices are critical for the fight against identity theft, since would-be thieves often attempt to secure new loans using deceased persons' personal information.

Key Takeaways:

  • A deceased alert is a notice given to financial institutions informing them that one of their account holders has died.
  • These notices limit the risk of identity theft.
  • Although deceased alerts are typically issued by the credit reporting agencies, the families of the deceased may wish to notify their financial institutions directly to ensure they are informed of the death as soon as possible.

How Deceased Alerts Work

Deceased alerts are typically sent out by credit reporting agencies and communicated to various financial institutions. The purpose of the alert is to notify these institutions that the person in question has died so that they do not extend any new credit products to anyone applying under the deceased person’s name.

Unfortunately, identity thieves have been known to use deceased persons’ identities to take out credit products in their name. In some cases, this information is gleaned from obituaries and other public information. For that reason, the families of the deceased may wish to consider not including personal information, such as the deceased person’s date of birth or address, when issuing public statements.

This type of identity theft can cause substantial financial damage to the deceased person’s estate, forcing their surviving family members to navigate a lengthy and complicated recovery process. To protect themselves against the risk of fraud, families should promptly contact their banks, lenders, and any other financial institutions at which the deceased person held accounts, formally requesting that they issue a deceased alert. As a further precaution, directly writing to the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax (EFX), Experian, and TransUnion (TRU)—can also be helpful.

Real-World Example of a Deceased Alert

As the executor for her father’s estate, Jane must ensure that her father’s financial providers are informed of his death so that they can issue a deceased alert. In doing so, she begins by obtaining several certified copies of her father’s death certificate and sending those copies to the credit card companies, banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions where her father held accounts. This way, the financial institutions will know to close their accounts and refrain from opening any new accounts in her father’s name in the future.

As an added precaution, Jane also contacts the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report the death while mailing additional copies of her father’s death certificate to the three major credit reporting agencies. Lastly, Jane further reduces the risk of identity theft by canceling her father’s driver’s license and limiting the amount of personal information contained in his obituary.