Why is it Illegal to Fake Your Death?

February 14, 2024

We've all heard of people "faking their death" (pseudocide) to escape a messy life, collect on some life insurance, evade outstanding arrest warrants or just start over with a clean slate. These individuals are usually caught in the act and sentenced to prison for fraud. They also must deal with the emotional trauma of being exposed as a phony, which may be more difficult than they thought.

In her book Playing Dead, author Elizabeth Greenwood interviews people who either catch death fakers or assist them in the process. All of them express a visceral repulsion to the idea of fabricating a death, and most feel that doing so is a very bad idea. The main reason for this repulsion seems to be that, although the crime of faking your own death isn't inherently illegal, the ancillary crimes associated with it usually are.

For example, if you want to live on under a new identity, you'll need to establish credit and get a job. In order to do that, you'll have to lie on applications and documents, which is fraud. And, if you're trying to avoid paying back child support or alimony, that's also fraud. All of the ancillary crimes associated with faking your death are what makes it so difficult to do legally.


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