Pick up the phone and let the credit card company know; it prevents new charges and identity theft
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Dear Credit Wise,
My uncle died recently. Should I notify Discover Card? I do not think there was a balance on the account. Can I do this online? — Barbara
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your uncle. I don’t know if you are your uncle’s executor of if you are just a concerned family member, but no matter what I applaud your initiative.
Another reason to notify the creditor is to prevent fraudulent charges and identity theft. It is a sad fact that using a dead person’s identity is a common practice among identity thieves.
Unfortunately, you cannot notify the creditor online about your uncle’s death; you will have to call Discover. Its page “Closing a Deceased Cardmember’s Account” includes the phone number to call, and answers to frequently asked questions. (Other card issuers with online advice on the topic include American Express and Bank of America.) The representative will be able to answer questions you have about any balance due on the account. Be sure to ask if there were recurring charges being made to the card, because those merchants will need to be notified as well. Remember that as soon as you report the death, the card will be deactivated and no new charges will be accepted.
You will not have to provide a death certificate to close the account. This is good news, because there are many places that must be notified that will require a certified copy of the death certificate, including the Social Security Administration, your uncle’s banks, company insurance and pension plans, as well as the office of Veteran’s Affairs if your uncle was a veteran.
Be sure you cut up or shred the credit card and properly dispose of it once you have notified the creditor. This will keep it from falling into anyone’s hands who might try to use the card.
Be wise with your credit!
See related: Credit card debt after death