(WSVN) - South Florida crooks are apparently stealing the identity of people right after they pass away, and then putting those dead people in debt. Who’s responsible for paying up? It’s why one widow called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Vivian goes through her album and sees the pictures of her late husband, Edward, looks back at his days fighting for the U.S. in Vietnam, it’s painful.
Vivian Molla, late husband’s identity stolen: “He suffered for the past three years really, really bad.”
Edward and Vivian were married for 47 years until, she says, the effects of Agent Orange took the life of the man she adored.
Vivian Molla: “He was not only the love of my life; he was my best friend.”
After Edward’s death, Vivian should have been grieving.
Instead, after an envelope arrived, she was steaming.
Vivan Molla: “I open the envelope, and there is a policy for a Hummer, a 2008 Hummer, and then there was another policy for a 2018 Ford Expedition.”
The paperwork said Edward Molla bought a Hummer days after he passed away.
Someone claiming to be Edward Molla also got a $71,000 loan for a Ford Expedition. Insurance policies were taken out in Edward’s name.
All of it done with a driver’s license using Edward’s name and address, and the face of a man that was too dark to see, but clearly not Edward.
Vivian Molla: I showed it to the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles]. They pulled it , and they said, ‘There’s no license there,’ so it was a forgery.”
Vivian’s son went to the dealer that sold the cars. They claimed to know nothing about the crook.
Vivian Molla: “How can this guy go to a dealer and be given two cars with just a driver’s license?”
Vivian contacted the police, and then she went to work.
Vivian Molla: “I haven’t had time to really mourn my husband because I’ve been so busy checking bank accounts, taking him off the bank accounts, taking him off the title of my car.”
Vivian is having to do all that because, eventually, the banks that loaned the money for the cars are going to come after Edward, and then Vivian, to get reimbursed for the money they loaned to the crook, or the crook may borrow more money in Edward’s name.
Vivian Molla: “For somebody to even do this is scary as hell. They could probably even go into my bank account, or into my credit, and do whatever they wanna do.”
Did this to a man whose name they probably saw in an obituary.
Vivian Molla: “My son says we don’t have a case because the victim is gone, which is my husband. I feel I’m the victim because I have to clear my husband’s name.”
Can a dead person be the victim of a crime? And if not, Howard, can the people who loaned the crooks money come after Edward’s family to get reimbursed?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes. This is a crime against Edward and his heirs. This is a twist on identity theft called ‘ghosting.’ The crooks borrow or steal money right after the death, before the credit bureaus are informed of the passing. But no, Edward and his family are not responsible for any money stolen by the crooks.”
The dealership that sold the cars in Edward’s name has gone out of business.
Miami-Dade Police are investigating but said they could not talk to us about the crime.
Vivian says she was told the FBI is investigating now, possibly because one of the vehicles bought in Edward’s name was shipped out of the country to Canada.
An FBI spokesperson said they cannot comment either.
Howard Finkelstein: “Vivian was smart to get a police report. Now she needs to send that report and a copy of Edward’s death certificate to the credit bureaus, and demand they remove any negative credit history based on the fraudulent charges. Also, place a deceased alert on the file to stop further crimes.”
Crooks think it’s easy to go after the elderly, the sick. But the deceased? That stuns Vivian.
Vivian Molla: “The most important thing for me right now is to inform the elderly people what is going on. We don’t have that many years left, and we really do enjoy what we do have left, and we don’t need this burden if someone is going to steal us blind.”
Special kind of crook to try to rip off a widow when they are grieving.
Now, if your mother or father, husband or wife, any close relative dies, there are several things to do to stop a crook from stealing a dead person’s identity.
Identified a crook that’s stealing your peace of mind? Wanna drive them out of business? Pass it on to us, and hopefully we can turn your grief into relief.
To protect deceased relatives from ID theft:
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