Death by Hacker, Elder Law Attorney, Woodstock, GA

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To make things easier to process, all sorts of important and previously time-consuming tasks are now being put online, including the process of declaring an individual officially dead. That raises the question of whether or not computer hackers can infiltrate the system to have someone declared dead. As it turns out, it is easy for them to do.

Last year in Australia, a hospital’s computer system was hacked and 200 living patients were declared dead. That got the attention of computer security experts, as the process of officially declaring a person deceased has been put increasingly online and making it a vulnerable point.

One such expert recently gave a presentation at a convention of hackers in Las Vegas titled “I Will Kill You.”

His research revealed that in most places having someone declared dead requires a report from a doctor and a funeral director. Many doctors have not registered with the appropriate agencies, so all that a hacker needs to do is co-opt the doctor’s identity and register in his or her name.

It is even easier for the hacker to pretend to be a funeral director.

ABC News reported this story in a recent story titled “Def Con: Hackers can virtually kill people, manipulate records, Australian security expert says.”

This raises some interesting problems for estates.

Once a person is declared dead, that can trigger life insurance payouts, retirement plan handoffs, bank account transfers and more. These are often important pieces of an estate plan.

If a hacker has illegally had a person declared dead and managed to have important accounts paid out to him or herself, then the delicate balance of an estate plan can crumble.

Of course, this is not currently a widespread, real world problem.

On the other hand, this is something to keep in mind if you stop receiving account statements. You might want to check and make sure you have not been declared legally dead by a hacker.

Reference: ABC News (August 8, 2015) “Def Con: Hackers can virtually kill people, manipulate records, Australian security expert says.”

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