The personal and business impact of deceased identify fraud

The sister of a man living in New York has been duped by a cruel identify fraudster posing as her deceased brother.  

The victim, who is based in the UK, received a series of text messages from her brother asking her to send money to cover an accident that had occurred at the flooring business he owned. The messages pleaded for funds to cover medical bills and potential lawsuit exposure. In response she wired instalments totalling around £10,000. 

However, when the text messages stopped the sister contacted NYPD because she was worried over the sudden lack of communication from her brother. The NYPD delivered the news that her brother, Thomas Munnelly, had actually passed away two months earlier and the messages had been from a fraudster named Fredrick Gilbert.  

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said:  “The defendant in this case allegedly preyed on a woman in another country to feed his greed. The victim had no idea her brother had died and sadly, this defendant used that to his advantage.” 

Further investigation revealed that Gilbert did not just con money out of the deceased sister, but had also stolen Munnelly’s identity enabling him to open a number of credit cards and credit accounts in the name of the deceased both in the UK and US. The only reason that the identity fraud was discovered, was because of the sister’s concern about her brother’s welfare. Had Gilbert kept up the charade and maintained the text messages it is likely that the fraud would have continued unchecked for many months. 

Deceased identity fraud of this nature is one of the hardest forms of fraud to detect because the victim is deceased and therefore unable to notice any unusual activity occurring in their financial life or credit file. It therefore tends to go undetected for longer than fraud against victims that are still alive. Deceased identity fraud is now the fastest growing form of identity theft and organisations are being advised by organisations such as Cifas and the police to put processes into place to protect their customers and their business, such as verifying that customers are not deceased. This is particularly important now as latest reports show that all forms of fraud are currently on the rise. 

For further information about deceased identity fraud and how to protect against it please don’t hesitate to contact us.