Helping the Elderly Avoid Identity Theft

Identity TheftIdentity theft can strike anyone at any time, but identity thieves often target the elderly. This is especially frustrating, as these victims are often on a fixed income with a strict budget. The effects are troubling and sometimes, devastating, to everyone involved.

Here’s help to avoid identity theft and ensure our seniors get to keep the money they worked so hard for:

Common Identity Theft Scams

The elderly tend to be less tech-savvy, and helping them avoid this type of fraud means educating them on the most common scams out there. Some tactics thieves use include: 

  • Acting as someone the person is familiar with (such as a grandchild) on the phone or through email or social media and asking for emergency help. Often, an elderly will feel sympathy for their friend or family member and send money via Paypal, Western Union or other means of money transfer.
  • Dumpster divers get into people’s garbage to find credit card statements, pre-approved credit cards and other important documents. They use it to steal the victim’s credit and personal information.
  • Phishing: Send emails claiming to be a bank, eBay or credit card company and advise the victim they are late paying a bill or a similar ruse. To avoid ruining their credit, a person might panic and put vital financial information in an email response. Scammers use close replication of company logos, so it seems legit.

If the phone rings and the caller says he represents the IRS, be suspicious. That’s the warning from federal authorities, who yesterday said a nationwide phone scam has stolen $1 million from thousands of unsuspecting people. (read more)

How to Avoid These Scams

  • No one should open email from new or suspicious addresses. Ask family members to contact you directly, so you are assured it’s truly them. If an email comes through, tell that person you’d be happy to help but to give you a quick call.
  • Shred documents on a regular basis to dispose of business information, including junk mail that may include pre-approved credit cards. Banks offer recycle days where customers can bring in their shredded sensitive documents to dispose of them. Check with friends and family to find other drop-off locations.
  • If you simply get an email and no follow-up call, it’s most likely not your credit card company. If you are concerned, call the company that has sent the email to confirm the request for information is legitimate.
  • Watch your back at checkout counters and ATMs to be sure no one is peering over your shoulder.
  • When purchasing items online, be sure the website is secure.
  • When creating passwords for any website, don’t be lazy. Create letter and number combinations that no one could guess.
  • Hire an identity theft protection service like Life Lock to monitor your credit and alert you to any suspicious activity

If You’re a Victim

There are things you can do to help regain control of your credit score. File a police report. This can help you get a credit freeze so fraudulent activity won’t hurt you further. Also call your bank or credit card company so they can monitor and freeze your account as well.