A new study found fraudsters are robbing the graves of more than 2.5 million people a year.
The study, done by ID Analytics, reveals identity theft of deceased Americans happens more frequently than every thought.
ID Analytics worked with credit-granting companies like cell phone carriers and banks. They followed applications for these things for the first three months in 2011. They screened about 100 million applications. The applications were compared to the Social Security Administations Death Master File, which tracks the identities of people after they die.
The study's authors say results are a wide-scale problem and are much worse than anyone previously thought.
The study claims about 800,000 deceased Americans are deliberately targeted by criminals every year. This means a person is using the number and birthdate of a deceased person to open a credit card or get a cell phone. The study does not say whether those applications were accepted.
The study also found about 1.6 million more dead adults have their identity stolen through random selection. This means people fill out an application and randomly put a social security number on the application, belonging to someone who is deceased.
The study's author says fraudsters intentionally use the identities of the deceased a rate of 2,000 per day.
The Social Security Administration constantly updates the Death Master File, which contains about 40 million social security numbers. Firms that offer credit cards, loans, or cell phones are supposed to check the applications and compare them to the Master File.
If you are receiving unexpected bills in a deceased person's name, you should run a credit check on the person. Third parties can do this, but you'll need proof the person is dead, and proof you're a relative or spouse.