Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 1.
Fraudsters are expanding their network of stealing identities and are increasingly targeting deceased individuals to commit fraud such as opening credit card applications.
Cyber criminals are focusing on this group of people to perpetrate fraud, because after a death, people's identities often remain on mortgages or car loans for awhile. Fraudsters are creating "zombie identities," and the theft occurs often quickly afterwards by focusing on retailers, health care and insurance companies, government agencies and financial institutions to find victims, said Christopher Pinion, manager of fraud management practice at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an Atlanta-based risk data provider.
These fraudsters are often not sophisticated ones and target family members such that, as a result, there are addresses where several people living in a home wind up sharing the same social security number of a dead person, Pinion said.
In effect, multiple people are using the same deceased person's Social Security number in order to obtain money and status among their peers, Pinion said. This type of identity theft is prevalent, partly because once a fraudster figures out the process, he will share the information with friends and family members.
"Once that happens, the knowledge spreads like a weed and goes viral, which is why you can see pockets of zombie haunted houses from our data," he said.
As other groups are picking up on the scheme, including gang members, these cyber criminals are presenting a challenge to companies to work on identifying and combating these cons to not only protect the identities of those who are deceased, but also living individuals, Pinion said.