We have all heard of the faked-death scams to defraud insurance companies, escape prosecution, or to start over. The latter always happens in the aftermath of mass-casualty events like train wrecks, fires, and terrorist attacks. But what about the reverse — pretending to be somebody who has died?
This is not uncommon simply because it is so difficult to uncover the truth of someone’s identity and it has been so throughout my thirty years of Canadian experience.
In Canada, registering deaths is a provincial responsibility. The national vital statistics death registration system run by Statistics Canada does not include the deceased’s name or date of birth. There are no public search facilities for determining if the identity that you are presented with is that of a dead person.
In the U.S.A., the Social Security Administration Death Master file includes 98% of deaths of persons who participated in the Social Security program. This is may be searched at several internet sites.
In the UK, Smee & Ford Limited created a database called Mortascreen, which was used to screen direct mail lists for deceased people. This data was augmented and is now used as the foundation for Halo, a database that covers 85% of the deaths occurring annually in the UK. It is updated monthly and includes historical data to make it useful for verifying a person’s identity.
According to the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, CIFAS, since 2001, impersonation of the dead is Britain’s fastest growing identity theft crime. The latest research suggests the problem has been under-stated by 3.5 times and revised statistics now indicate that 70,000 families experienced the pain of discovering their loved one had been impersonated after their death, to open accounts such as credit cards and loans.
According to the Home Office figures on crime in England and Wales in Jan 2003,
I suspect that Canada may have a problem with this type of identity theft, but there is no way of knowing the extent of the the problem.