For those of us “of a certain age”, membership in AARP gives us access to their great publications. In the recent AARP Bulletin, an article entitled Death Notice Double-Cross https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2018/scams-using-obituaries.html provides a perspective that we genealogists need to think about and talk with our families about.
As many of us, when a loved one dies, write (either ourselves or with the help of a funeral home) an obituary that often contain birth date, death date, names of family survivors and more information about the deceased’s life, there is an opportunity for scam artists. As genealogists, we find obituaries to fill in gaps in information that we otherwise haven’t found. A mother’s maiden name, birthplace of the deceased, names of descendants and more are usual items that I know have helped me personally in looking for ancestors in our family. However, the AARP article cautions against using these pieces of information in obituary notices because of the potential scam opportunities. While those of us still living and mourning a loss want to honor a lifetime (and I can admit to wanting to document their life for future family historians), there are immediate concerns here to consider. Scams of course are becoming more and more creative and brazen. There is good advice here!
Perhaps the answer for us in these modern times is to consider how and where we share this important information. Maybe consider sharing the deceased person’s age without giving the birth date or place. Don’t provide mother’s maiden name or the address of the family. And maybe provide instead what the person’s great works were or the legacy of the volunteer roles they had – items that enrich what is known about a person. My concern about this is that the incredible value to us in the obituary, as family historians, is often the information that is only source of some key pieces of fundamental facts of birth, marriage or death. As a researcher, I’m dealing with obituaries well out of the reach of scammers, but protect yourself in the present so that there isn’t an additional story of sorry if a scammer takes advantage of your loss.