We are all vulnerable to identity thieves, but much of the action seems to focus against seniors, according to My Prime Time News in “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe.” More than a third of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2017 were from seniors.
Why are seniors more vulnerable to identity theft? There are a number of reasons. One is that you are a far more interesting target for thieves now than you might have been earlier in your life. You’ve got a lifetime of savings set aside for retirement. While you’ve got that nice nest egg, it’s possible that you may not be up to date on all of the latest ways that thieves use technology to scam people.
Not all seniors know that caller ID can be fooled into showing that a call is coming from Social Security when it’s really coming from overseas. The IRS and Social Security usually don’t call. Email design is so sophisticated that it is easy for an email to be created using logos and typefaces that make it appear like it is coming from a big bank, but it’s actually from a spammer.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to identity theft. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Be smart about your personal information. Never give your personal information out to anyone, don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize, and don’t reply to emails from unknown senders.
- Prevent checks or personal information from falling into the wrong hands by ensuring that Social Security benefits, pension funds, and any other retirement income checks are directly deposited into your accounts. All it takes is one paper check from the mailbox for someone to do serious financial damage to your life.
- Check on banking activities regularly, and be on the alert for unusual activity.
- If you are the caretaker of a family member, proactively protect their finances from fraud. If you have power of attorney, monitor their credit reports to ensure that no new accounts are opened in their name.
- If a loved one has accidentally given out personal information, have an initial fraud alert placed on their accounts for one year. If they’ve already been a victim of identify theft, have an extended fraud alert placed on their accounts.
- If a relative or friend calls asking for desperate help, especially while on a trip overseas, call them back, as they might be home. Con artists will appeal to your sense of duty and loyalty to family and friends.
Identity thieves abound in this brave new world and can victimize you even when we are watching for it.
Reference: My Prime Time News (June 2, 2019) “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe”