If your elderly parents spent many years in the working world and invested their funds wisely, chances are they’re sitting on a rather large nest egg and have easy access to much more cash than the average individual. Sadly, identity thieves are banking on it.
But that’s not the only reason fraudsters prey on the elderly. The following also play an integral role:
- Easygoing: The elderly spend their days relaxing or engaging in fun-filled activities that warm their heart. They tend not to be as uptight or extremely busy, which means they’re more open-minded and sometimes gullible, notes Lifelock.
- Guilt: The elderly often wish to maintain their independence so they shove larger issues, like identity theft, under the rug. Reasoning: if they admit they’ve been victimized, chances are family members may feel intervention is necessary.
- Vulnerable: Seniors who spend a lot of time alone make the perfect candidates for identity theft if they are desperate for companionship. They are often socially isolated, lonely, tend to be trusting and vulnerable. They may also have early dementia or memory loss, reports AgingCare.com.
- Cash On-hand: If they no longer make big-ticket purchases, cash is more than likely their primarily form of payment and credit report activity is rarely monitored.
Tactics commonly employed by fraudsters to rob the elderly of their identity include:
- Credit card fraud: Do your elderly parents frequently leave credit cards lying around the home? If so, caregivers or other service providers can easily note the card number, expiration date and three-digit CSC code to clean out their account. Skimming, which is the act of stealing credit card information through a scanning device, is also a risk, particularly if they frequently dine out and relinquish their card to the server to cover the bill.
- Mail fraud: Thieves don’t mind digging through the trash to get their hands on documents that have not been shredded and contain personal information. In some instances, fraudsters or those closest to them will steal confidential documents, such as tax and bank account statements, directly from the mailbox, according to Aging Care.
- Phishing and spam mail: Disguised as legitimate messages from reputable service or financial providers appear in their inbox. In the body of the message, there is a request for them to reply with confidential information to confirm the validity of the account. Figuring something is wrong, your elderly parents may do so without thinking twice.
- Telemarketing Schemes: According to the National Crime Prevention Council, senior citizens are more at risk to be targeted by telemarketing scams than other age groups. These dishonest telemarketers direct anywhere from 56 to 80 percent of their calls to the elderly, reports LifeLock.
- Contests: He or she may be contacted by a bogus agency claiming they’ve won a prize. But to receive the proceeds, a social security number along with bank account information must be provided to verify their identity and deposit the funds, respectively. Sounds good, but it’s also all the information thieves needs to wipe out their bank account.
Signs of Identity Theft
Do you suspect your elderly parents have been victimized by identity theft? Here are a few signs to be on the lookout for:
- Collection calls and letters from financial institutions and service providers they’ve never done business with.
- Errors on credit reports that reveal accounts that he or she had no knowledge of beforehand.
- Deposits required for utility activation, which is common for individuals with negative credit history.
- An extensive credit check for insurance coverage to determine riskiness due the large number of negative marks on his or credit profile.
How to Help your Elderly Parents
In the event your elderly parents are victimized, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
- Placing a fraud alert with one of the three national credit reporting companies. They will notify the others.
- Accessing a free copy of their credit report from each of the three bureaus and reviewing for inaccuracies.
- Filing an identity theft report through the local police department and the FTC Complaint Assistant.
Once you’ve taken those three important steps, place a fraud alert on your parent’s credit profile as it will raise red flags should a fraudster make another attempt at stealing their identity. In addition, the two of you should begin the process of disputing the inaccuracies discovered on the credit report using this comprehensive, step-by-step guide provided by the FTC.
Most importantly, you can assist them with actions that prevent history from repeating itself. Consider enrolling them in a reputable identity theft protection program, such as LifeLock, and take a look at the plethora of useful resources found on their website.
U.S. News also suggests freezing their credit profiles so thieves can’t establish new credit accounts using their identity, monitoring account activity and opting-in to receive account alerts for financial transactions.