Amid reports of looters raiding the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, the Dutch Banking Association announced it is taking steps to prevent misuse of the passengers’ credit and debit cards. Of the 298 people who died in the crash, 193 were Dutch.
The site of the crash has apparently been ransacked, according to reports from international media and various witnesses, with thieves seemingly capitalizing on the likelihood that victims’ families are not monitoring the deceased’s financial accounts in the wake of the tragedy. In its statement, the Dutch Banking Association pointed out that debit cards are designed to be unusable without its associated PIN, but the risk of fraud remains. “Any loss resulting from the unlawful use of bank cards will be reimbursed to the victims’ next-of-kin,” the statement reads.
It’s an appalling display of opportunism, but identity thieves see dead people as easy targets. Even if the deceased has living, close family members, it’s easy for them to overlook the risk of fraud, given everything else that must be done at the end of a life. Last week’s tragedy serves as a grim reminder that identity theft is a constant threat and personal information cannot go unmonitored, especially in the case of a high-profile disaster like flight MH17.
When someone dies, their close relatives (or whoever is responsible for overseeing end-of-life plans) need to take action to prevent identity theft of the dead:
1. Contact credit bureaus
2. Contact financial institutions
3. Carefully dispose of sensitive documents
Credit bureaus, credit card companies, lenders — they’ll likely all want a death certificate to move forward with shutting down the accounts. Contacting a credit bureau should ensure no more credit will be issued in the name of that consumer, and reaching out to current creditors should prevent someone from fraudulently using existing accounts. Finally, you’ll want to minimize exposure of personally identifying information: Don’t get too specific in the obituary, and don’t throw out any sensitive materials, like a document with a Social Security number on it. Like you would guard your own identity, take care to protect that of your loved one. If you’re worried about your own identity, you can monitor your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- The Risks You Face From Identity Theft