"Your odds after you pass away of being hit by this go up astronomically because your number and the rest of your identity are now public," said Bob Sullivan, Technology Writer for MSNBC.com.
Your identity becomes public because of something the Social Security Administration has to do: publish, online, what's called the "death master file," which is the Social Security number of those who've died.
"There's even an iPhone app for looking up Social Security numbers for folks who have passed away," said Sullivan.
Banks, lenders and others need to know that a specific Social Security number is no longer valid. But I.D. thieves often get to the list quicker.
"The first thing identity thieves can do is pick up newspaper out of the trash and see who's passed away, go to the library, go online and look up their Social Security number," said Sullivan.
He says avoid being a victim by letting the Social Security Administration, bank, and credit card company know a loved one has died. And send a copy of the death certificate to the big three credit bureaus. Also, don't put personal info like birth date and address in the obituary.