Senior citizens might be more vulnerable to identity theft for several reasons. They may not be as familiar with technology, making them an easy target for online scams. Also, after a lifetime of saving, they likely have more assets, which can be attractive to thieves.
Whether you're a senior or a caregiver looking out for a loved one, the information in this article can show you a clear path to feel secure. So, I'll share my experience in identity theft protection services to empower you with practical tips and tricks to help protect the elderly from identity theft.
» Don't fall for the same tricks. Learn more about these nightmarish ID theft stories.
Elderly ID Theft: Awareness and Prevention
It's more important than ever to safeguard our elderly loved ones. A shocking 330,000 fraud reports were filed by individuals over 60 years old in 2020, surging by over 130,000 in just one year.
Knowledge is power. Understanding identity theft and the various forms of scams and fraudulent activities can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
- Be wary of email and phone scams: Scammers often impersonate companies via email or phone—known as "phishing"—to steal personal information. If you receive an email requesting account information such as passwords, always verify its authenticity and report suspicious emails to your bank to avoid phishing attacks.
- Guard against "family member" scams: You can be targeted with fake text messages claiming a loved one needs bail money. Establish a family "safe word" for emergencies and verify any unusual requests, as text messages can be deceiving.
- Watch for red flags in relationships: Hastily entering a romantic relationship can make you vulnerable. Be cautious and pay attention to any "red flags" that might signal a new romantic partner could try to defraud you.
- Consult with an estate attorney: Ensure your accounts, health decisions, and estate plans are protected from close family scams. Consult a reputable estate attorney who can help you establish safeguards.
- Subscribe to an ID theft protection service: Services like LifeLock monitor the internet and scan for your personal information to ensure proactive measures against crooks.
» Which is better for you? Identity Guard vs LifeLock.
Best Practices in Daily Life
Life is full of experiences and adventures, but it's crucial to stay secure. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and secure your personal information from identity theft in your day-to-day life.
- Travel smart: When traveling, be aware of the risk of theft and electronic data theft. Carry important documents with you or secure them, and stay vigilant in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Guard against pick-pockets: Always keep track of your wallet or purse, and consider using anti-theft measures when traveling.
- Protect your mail: Secure your mailbox with a lock and pick up your mail daily. If you're expecting something by mail and it doesn't arrive as expected, follow up with the sender.
- Safety in retirement and nursing homes: Seniors in retirement or nursing homes can be vulnerable to exploitation. Seek support from social services if you feel someone is taking advantage of you in your community.
- Secure your home: Protect your house from burglary by using reliable locks, keeping important documents locked and password-protected on electronic devices.
- Use strong passwords: Secure your electronic devices with unique passwords, and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.
- Keep software updated: Regularly update your computer and mobile device software to guard against security vulnerabilities.
- Dispose of documents securely: Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of old documents containing personal information, such as bank statements and medical records.
If you don’t check your financial accounts frequently, fraudulent activity might go unnoticed for long stretches of time. It’s important for you and your caregivers to be aware of these risks and take preventative steps to protect your personal and financial information.
- Regularly check credit reports: Early detection is critical to preventing identity theft. So, monitor your credit reports for any unusual or unauthorized activity. If you don't want to do this manually, myFICO can provide three-credit bureau monitoring and ID theft protection for a monthly fee.
- Practice safe online habits: When it comes to safe online shopping and communication, always know who you are dealing with. Buy from reputable companies with secure payment methods.
- Be cautious with your Social Security number: Social Security scams are dangerous, so be highly selective of who you share your number with, even trusted parties. If your Social Security is compromised, immediately report it to the Social Security Administration.
Stay Safe With the Times
Protecting the elderly from identity theft is a shared responsibility, and with the proper knowledge, we can all contribute to a safer and more secure community.
By following these tips and tricks, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft. Whether you're a senior or a caregiver, taking these precautions will help you stay safe in the increasingly digital world.
» Suspect fraud? Learn more about what to do if your identity has been stolen.