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Obituaries used for fraud

The Edmonton Police Service is warning families to be cautious about how much information they include in obituaries.

“It’s an awful thing to have to think about when your loved one has passed away,” says Det. Liam Watson with Northeast Division’s Criminal Investigation Section. “But unfortunately, information like a birth date or details about an employer may be all a criminal needs to steal your family member’s identity.”

Suspects use the detailed information in obituaries to contact various businesses (employers, utility providers, etc.) to gain further personal information about the deceased in order to commit identity fraud.

Police are encouraging families to take the following proactive steps when a loved one passes away:

  • When posting an obituary, do not use the day and month of birth of the deceased. Try not to include information on employment history or home address.
  • If acting as an executor for an estate:
    • Alert credit bureaus at the earliest opportunity so that a flag can be placed on the deceased’s profile.
    • Alert Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Service Canada so a flag can be placed on the deceased’s social insurance number and CRA account. 
    • Inform the financial institutions used by the deceased and the utility providers including cell phone provider. 
    • Monitor bank and utility account activity until they are closed.
    • Note: You may be asked to provide a copy of the certificate of death and a copy of the will identifying the executor to complete the above steps.

Obituary information is also used to commit the following scams/frauds:

  • Grandma/Grandpa Scam – the fraudster contacts the surviving spouse and uses the name of one of the grandchildren listed in the obituary.  Information provided to the surviving grandparent is often found on the grandchild’s social media sites or obtained through internet searches.
  • Employment Scam – through social engineering the fraudster obtains the deceased’s personal information and uses it to acquire employment under the deceased’s name thereby redirecting the income tax owed and the identity of the fraudster.
  • Income/Benefits Fraud – the deceased’s identity is used to apply for senior’s benefits and pensions through the federal government or through social engineering to redirect pensions or benefits the deceased was receiving to someone else.
  • Bank Fraud – bank accounts, lines of credit and credit cards are opened in the deceased’s name.
  • Rental Scam - fraudulently renting a condo using the deceased's name. The fraudster then abandon's the suite and doesn't pay rent.

There was also a report in 2018 where the deceased's vehicle was stolen, which contained a wallet with their driver's license, AB Health Card, SIN Card, Debit card, and cell phones.