Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe
By Greg Mahnken ~
You’ve heard all the advice for keeping your identity safe in today’s day and age.
Don’t give out personal information on the phone. Legitimate agencies will never call you and demand payment over the phone. Never wire money to a stranger.
These tips have kept you safe for years. But as you age, you may find yourself a more vulnerable target to scammers and identity thieves. In 2017 alone, 35% of fraud complaints to the FTC were from affected seniors. How can you stay on top of new scams, which get more sophisticated by the day?
Why Are Seniors More Vulnerable to Identity Theft?
You’ve worked hard for what you have. A lifetime of savings built up for your retirement is no small feat, but unfortunately, it makes you an attractive target to thieves.
According to the FBI, seniors are more likely to have good credit scores and often have saved up a nest egg. As scammers get more advanced, it may be harder to keep up with the ways technology can be abused to separate you from your money. With email phishing scams disguised to look like your bank or even impersonate a relative, it’s easier to accidentally hand over the keys to your identity.
How Can You Protect Yourself or a Loved One from Identity Theft?
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent yourself from being a victim of identity theft. Prevention is key to keeping your identity safe.
- Practice good habits with your personal information. Never give out personal information, don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers, and don’t reply to emails that you didn’t solicit.
- Prevent checks or personal information from falling into the wrong hands by ensuring that your Social Security or retirement income is direct-deposited into your accounts. A paper check stolen from your mailbox could be an invitation for identity theft.
Place a credit lock or credit freeze on your credit reports. A credit freeze will make it more difficult for fraudsters to pull your credit reports in an attempt to open accounts in your name.
- If you’re a caretaker of an aging family member, proactively protect his or her finances from fraud. If you have power of attorney, you’ll want to monitor their credit reports in order to ensure no new accounts are opened in their name. If a loved one accidentally gave out personal information, place an initial fraud alert for one year, or if he or she has been a victim of identity theft in the past, you can place an extended fraud alert.
It’s difficult to detect every attempt at identity theft. Taking preventative measures to keep your information out of the wrong hands can make all the difference between a happy retirement and a financial nightmare.
Greg Mahnken is a credit industry analyst at Credit Card Insider, a site dedicated to responsible credit use. He strives to help people use credit to their advantage.