Preventing Identity Theft

August 9, 2018

Identity theft happens when a criminal gets his hands on your personal identifying information without your consent. Unfortunately, this personal information can be found in countless places, from your Social Security card to your driver's license to the labels on your prescription bottles.

 

Why are seniors targeted?

There are several reasons why seniors are often targeted specifically in identity theft scams. Older Americans tend to have more money saved up than younger adults who are just starting out, making them especially lucrative targets for identity thieves. Seniors are also more likely to be staying in hospitals or nursing homes, where their personal information passes through the hands of many different people on a regular basis.

Furthermore, older adults may be more trusting and less likely to suspect malicious intent when they receive unusual emails or phone calls. Many seniors already depend on relatives, friends, neighbors and even strangers for caregiving and support, so they may not be suspicious of unsolicited help or other offers that come their way.

 

How seniors can protect themselves from ID theft.

Although there is no way to completely prevent identity theft, seniors can take steps to lower their risks of becoming victims.

Be safe and aware when using internet services. Phishing attacks often come in the form of emails, appearing to be from a business or other legitimate source. They may trick victims into supplying their personal information or clicking on a link by saying things like, “Your account is about to be canceled!” or “You have won a large cash prize.” Seniors should remember that legitimate businesses will not ask for personal information through an email, message or 

When using social media sites like Facebook, avoid sharing certain types of personal information in their profiles, such as the exact dates of birth. Some thieves have used details like these to forge birth certificates and create false identities.

Seniors can increase their physical security against ID theft by keeping close tabs on important documents, like bank statements and benefits statements. Unfortunately, preventative measures alone do not stop some senior citizens from becoming victims of identity theft. Because over 500,000 cases occur annually, there is always a chance it will happen to you. There are many common frauds and scams thieves use to target senior citizens online, over the phone and in person.

 

What to do if your personal information has been stolen.

Call your bank and credit card companies
Ask them to cancel your existing accounts, and to reissue your new accounts, cards, and checks. It is a good idea to keep a list of toll-free numbers for your bank and credit card companies for this purpose. Review your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully, and see if your bank or credit card issuer offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity as soon as it’s detected.

Change all of your passwords and codes
Make sure your new passwords and codes are different and more secure than your old passwords were. The best passwords are a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Never use your birthday, anniversary, the names of pets, spouses, children or grandchildren—or any other information a thief can easily find out about you and your loved ones. If you don’t plan to apply for new credit, loans, insurance or utility services, freeze your credit reports so crooks can’t open up new accounts in your name.

 

Identity theft is most easily resolved when detected early, so vigilance is the key to effective identity theft protection for anyone, including seniors. Take pre-emptive measures to protect yourself and your loved ones. We hope our tips gave better insight on how to prevent identity theft and the steps you can take if your personal information has been stolen.