Every year, roughly 2.5 million dead people’s identities are stolen for fraudulent purposes. Assurant, a Fortune 500 Insurance company, and ProtectHeir, former credit bureau experts, partnered to launch a solution helping RIAs clients to prevent identity theft at death, which can complicate and delay estate settlement.
Assurant Executor Assist is an intuitive online solution that helps reduce the time and effort needed for executors to settle an estate while offering protection against identity fraud after the passing of a loved one. The technology platform automates the process for sending death notices to financial institutions, govt agencies, credit bureaus, social media sites, credit card companies, etc. and creates a direct link and introduction for the advisor to the next generation of a client who inherits their current client’s wealth to hopefully retain those assets. Often, executors don’t know who to contact, how to do it, and more, opening the door for ID theft thieves to commit fraud. Big time saver, convenience, and introduction to next-generation wealth – huge value add advisors can provide.
To get to know the details of the launch we asked Steve Magee, Vice President of Global Sales at Assurant, several questions about the current situation with identity theft in the wealth management space and how technology can solve the problem.
What is deceased identity theft and how big of an issue is it?
Steve Magee: A particularly alarming form of identity theft is Deceased Identify Theft, often referred to as “Ghosting,” where thieves used the identities of deceased individuals to open fraudulent accounts and new services. One of the fastest-growing forms of fraud, this issue impacts the identities of almost 2.5 million previously deceased Americans per year and can add months – even years – to the estate settlement process. In fact, often the identities of those who have recently passed are targeted as thieves expect to have a comfortable window of time to operate unnoticed.
How does your solution address identity theft of deceased individuals?
Steve Magee: When it comes to Ghosting, the best way to mitigate this type of fraud is to stop it before it starts. This online executor tool automates the creation of notifications needed to be sent at death, reducing the time spent on these important organizational notifications from days to a few minutes.
Organizations that should be notified quickly include financial institutions, government agencies, social media sites and email service providers. By facilitating this process in an efficient and prompt manner, our solution reduces the risk of identity theft against a client’s estate as it doesn’t provide perpetrators of deceased identity theft enough time to carry out their actions.
This technology application is a low-cost, easy to use, turn-key solution that saves the executor of the client’s estate much time and effort, while reducing the stress of sorting through the affairs of the deceased.
What do Deceased Identity Theft and this technology-based solution have to do with wealth management companies?
Steve Magee: By providing this service to their clients, RIAs can position themselves as the go-to solution provider for the latest threats to smooth estate wealth transfer, while at the same time, gaining introductions to inheritors so that those relationships can be forged.
For advisors, getting to know the next generation of their client is key to retaining assets, as research indicates that between 90% to 95% of inheritors fire their parents’ advisors once an estate is settled. This new capability provides advisors with a compelling marketing message, differentiation, and a value-added service offering; all things that are needed in this challenging market environment to grow their businesses.
Assurant is primarily an insurance company, whereas ProtectHeir is their recent partner. Is there any other useful technology that Assurant provides wealth management companies?
Steve Magee: Assurant provides a variety of insurance and non-insurance solutions for many different industry partners, including financial services companies. With Executor Assist, Assurant partnered with ProtectHeir to introduce a technology-driven solution for wealth industry professionals who are looking to provide their clients with greater value and tools that facilitate next-generation client introductions.
What other options preventing identity theft at death are there in the market? Are they as efficient as Assurant / ProtectHeir and why?
Steve Magee: Executor Assist is the first online tool that can be used by executors to accomplish this preventative measure against Ghosting. There are some solutions that provide templated letters that executors can use, however, they are not customized with the specific names and accounts needed to effectively cancel accounts.
In addition, these other solutions often still require the executor to research how and where to mail the notifications. Time is of the essence for any type of identity theft, but especially as it relates to ghosting as the first couple of weeks are critical after a death. The Executor Assist tool provides time savings that not only frees up the executor to concentrate on other estate settlement issues, but also plays a significant role in reducing the likelihood of ghosting by shortening the time it takes to complete the necessary notifications.
Assurant, Inc. (NYSE: AIZ) is a leading global provider of lifestyle and housing solutions that support, protect and connect major consumer purchases. Anticipating the evolving needs of consumers, Assurant partners with the world’s leading brands to develop innovative products and services and to deliver an enhanced customer experience. A Fortune 500 company with a presence in 21 countries, Assurant offers mobile device solutions; extended service contracts; vehicle protection services; pre-funded funeral insurance; renters insurance; lender-placed insurance products; and other specialty products. The Assurant Foundation strengthens communities by supporting charitable partners that help protect where people live and can thrive, connect with local resources, inspire inclusion and prepare leaders of the future.
ProtectHeir, founded by credit industry executives with over 35 years of experience in true name fraud and identity theft prevention, leads the industry in estate fraud protection services. ProtectHeir’s automated solutions help consumers, families, and executors easily navigate through the difficult process of estate settlement, saving them time and money, while minimizing the chance of settlement delays due to fraud.
Learn more at protectheir.com.