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6 steps to protect a loved one’s identity after they die

(NEWS) Protecting your identity after death is important given how vulnerable and up for grabs an identity is post-mortem.

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identity theft

When a loved one passes, the last thing someone thinks about is what to do with their identity. The elderly and dead are often targeted at victims of identity theft, made easier in the era of technology, making it essential for someone to complete essential steps to prevent this from occurring, especially important when the deceased is a business owner.

NextAdvisor.com Editor Julie Myhre has offered six steps below in her own words that you should immediately complete when a loved one passes to protect their identity. It feels morbid to think in this way, but this problem is becoming increasingly common, but it doesn’t have to happen to your family.

Step Zero: acquiring certificates

Before completing any of the following steps, loved ones need to acquire at least 12 official copies of the death certificate. There may be an extra fee for each copy, however all of the agencies responsible for noting the death will need official copies to verify the death of the person, and it can help with identity theft protection.

Step One: Notify the Social Security Administration

The first step is to contact the Social Security Administration because the majority of a person’s identity is connected to their social security number, and alerting the Social Security Administration will get the deceased’s personal information added to the Death Master File or an official list of the deceased maintained by the Social Security Administration. Also, if the deceased was eligible for social security benefits, then the family or executor of the estate would want to get the benefits immediately redirected to the rightful heir.

Before a family member or executor of the estate contacts the Social Security Administration, they’ll need to gather some information about the deceased person — including the deceased’s social security number, date of birth, date of death and address. Once all the information is collected, a family member or executor of the estate should call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It’s important to note that family members or executors of the estate are not always required to report the death to the Social Security Administration because the funeral director also has the ability to report the death. Be sure to have a discussion to reporting the death with the funeral director to verify who will be responsible for this step.

Step Two: Alert all three credit bureaus

The next thing family members or executors of the estate should do to delete the deceased person’s identity is to contact all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Before calling, family members or executors of the estate should make sure that they have the deceased’s full name, social security number, date of birth, date of death, last known address  and their last five years of addresses.

Each of the bureaus has specific requirements to mark a credit holder as deceased, so it’s best to call each bureau prior to sending the official death certificate to find out what the specific requirements are for that specific bureau. Once all the necessary information is gathered, the family members or executor of the estate can then mail it to the individual bureaus.

Step Three: Void the deceased’s driver’s license

Since driver’s licenses contain a lot of personal information, it’s essentially to call the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to void their driver’s license. It’s best to have personal information — including the deceased’s social security number, date of birth, date of death and address — about the deceased on hand, yet the requirements for each DMV differs depending on the state in which the deceased lived. Call or visit the website of the state’s DMV to learn more about voiding a driver’s license in that state.

Step Four: Contact every bank and financial institution the deceased did business with

In today’s world, people bank with numerous banks or financial institutions, so it’s essential for identity theft protection for family members or executors of the estate to contact every bank and financial institution that the deceased did business with. Make sure each account is closed and the bank or financial institution is aware that the person is deceased.

It’s essential to also contact any financial institutions or bank that the deceased person had a credit card, mortgage, personal loans or any other debt. If the deceased has unpaid debt, then the spouse, someone with a power of attorney or the executor of the estate will be responsible for sorting it out with each individual bank and financial institution.

Step Five: Alert insurance and annuity companies

Once a person dies, insurance companies sometimes do not know of the death until a family member or executor of the estate calls to alert them. If the person had life insurance and annuity, disability insurance, automotive insurance or a relationship with a mutual benefit company, then a family member or executor of the estate should be sure to also inform those companies of the death.

Step Six: Cancel any membership-orientated agencies

The final step for deleting the identity of the deceased is to contact every company or institution that the deceased had a membership with. This can be the most time-consuming step because a family member or executor of the estate must call or contact grocery stores, health or athletic clubs, libraries, alumni clubs, professional organizations, as well as rotary or lions organizations. It’s also essential to contact any professional licensing bodies if the person had a career that required a professional license — such as a doctor, real estate agent, lawyer or cosmetologist.

It’s important to note that there might be other required steps if the deceased person was a military veteran or not a U.S. citizen. Family members or executors of the estate of a deceased veteran should alert the Veteran’s Administration by calling 1-800-827-1000. Family members or executor of the estate of a deceased non-U.S. citizen should alert the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the death by calling 1-800-375-5283.
Some family members or executors of the estate choose to have the deceased’s personal information added to the Deceased Do Not Contact List, which is maintained by the Direct Marketing Association, for a $1 fee. This list ensures that the deceased person will be placed in a do not contact file. In order to add someone to the list, a family member or executor of the estate will need to provide the deceased person’s name, street address, phone number and email address. Deceased people can be added to the Deceased Do Not Contact List by filling out and submitting the online form here.

The takeaway

Grieving is complicated enough, and with technology, hackers can easily lift a loved one’s identity, especially when they’re no longer around to defend themselves. Taking these steps can help with some of the technicalities involved in protecting your loved one’s identity even after life.

Business News

Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Ageism void

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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Business News

AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines, so what now?

(BUSINESS) Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that AI-generated content is against webmaster guidelines. What does mean for content strategy?

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Google homepage on computer representing AI-generated content.

John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, stated that AI-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines in a weekly online question and answer session.

Let’s review what that means for you and your content strategy going forward.

First of all, what is AI Generated Content?

Simply put, Medium defines it as

“[a]utomatically generated or Auto-Generated content is content that’s been created with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.”

Tools like writesonic or jasper are examples of AI content creation tools made to create content for a blog, social media, etc. If you check these websites, you will find that Google is listed as one of the many companies that use their services.

So, Google can use it but others will be penalized for using it. Can Google recognize when a user takes advantage of AI-generated content services for use on the web?

In the video Q&A, Mueller doesn’t confirm or deny whether or not Google is capable of recognizing AI-generated content. He is quoted as stating,

“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can take action on that.”

After countless searches about the Google webspam team and what actions they can take, it’s not immediately clear, but what seems to be the consensus is that it could negatively impact Google rankings and SEO.

What can you do?

If you are already using AI-generated content, the first thing to consider is do you need to do most of the heavy lifting or are you using it to generate ideas or a starting point? If you’re using it to fully write your next blog post, you need to reconsider this position and be sure to have a human add personal touches to your online content.

According to Mueller, using AI-generated content in ANY capacity is considered unacceptable. He states,

“[c]urrently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So, from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”

Your best bet is to keep doing it yourself because right now Google has all the power over search and rankings. At least, until something changes.

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Business News

Social media and depression go hand-in-hand, studies show

(BUSINESS) Maybe this won’t come as a surprise, but the statistics sure are telling- having depression and social media usage are linked.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe they have found evidence of a link between depression and social media use. Many studies have attempted to show that social media use can be detrimental to your mental health, but the parameters of these studies are often limited in scope or were unrealistic situations. The UPenn study collected usage data tracked by the phone rather than relying on self-reporting.

Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, the author of the published study, says the bottom line is: “Using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

It should be noted that the study participants were college students who were randomly assigned to either use social media as they normally would or be in the experimental group that limited time on the three most popular platforms, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Hunt doesn’t believe that it’s realistic not to use social networks at all, but it is important to find a way to manage your use to avoid negative effects.

Depression is a serious problem for Americans, but is social media responsible?

The CDC reported that between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of Americans over the age of 20 experienced depression in a 2-week period. About 80% of these people had difficulty with daily activities due to depression. However, “over a 10-year period, from 2007–2008 to 2015–2016, the percentage of adults with depression did not change significantly.” On the other hand, social network use increased exponentially during this time.

There have been other studies that link social media use and depression. It might be that the more platforms accessed increase the risk for depression. Another study found that it was the way people used social media that increased depression. Using it to compare yourself to others or feeling addicted to social media increased the feelings of depression.

But it’s unknown whether depression or social media use came first. Studies haven’t quite agreed on whether it exacerbates existing problems, or creates them.

How should we approach social media use?

Another report suggests that Facebook knew from the start that they were creating addictions. The people closest to tech believe that there are inherent risks for their children to be on social media. Scary? It should make you think about how and why you use tech.

If you find yourself having negative feelings after using social networks, consider limiting the amount of time you spend on those platforms. Get out and connect with others. Relationships can often reduce the risk of depression. Get involved in your community. It’s important to find balance in using social media and having connections with others. Spend time on what makes you feel better about your life.

There are still a lot of questions about how social networks and technologies affect society. In the meantime, pay attention to how you use these sites and be conscious of not getting sucked into the comparison trap.

If you are depressed and lonely, there is help available, and we ask you to make that difficult step and reach out – call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741. You can also visit their website to find your local NAMI.

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