More than 12 million people had their identities stolen last year-a shocking statistic that continues to rise. While anyone can become a victim of identity theft, this crime especially impacts seniors who often have more wealth and have spent a lifetime developing good credit.
Elderly identity theft is common among senior citizens for many reasons. They are generally more trusting than younger adults, not as aware of the risks and scams, and are also more likely to know the identity thief. They are prime identity theft targets online, over the phone, and even in their own homes since they’re less likely to suspect loved ones of the crime.
Whether you’re a senior citizen or a family member looking for ways to prevent elderly identity theft, there are many things you can do to stay protected. Let’s take a closer look at four tips to prevent identity thieves from claiming another senior victim.
1. Be Safe Online
Senior citizens who are typically less familiar with Internet security should avoid risky behavior online. This includes online banking and providing personal information in response to email spam. Encourage them to conduct all of their banking in person and ignore emails from people they don’t know. It is also a good idea to install security software on their computer to help prevent hackers from accessing their private information.
2. Freeze Credit
You should also implement a credit freeze. Freezing credit is easy to do and it’s an effective way to avoid elderly identity theft. To freeze a loved one’s credit you will need to contact the three credit agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) and request a freeze. You will be required to provide the full name, address, Social Security number, a copy of a government-issued ID, and a copy of a bank statement, insurance statement, or utility bill. The freeze won’t allow any new credit accounts–including loans, bank accounts, rental agreements, and high interest credit cards–to open unless you give the credit bureau the permission and the password to unfreeze the account.
3. Stop Junk Mail
It’s easy to ignore junk mail, but many of us forget how much personal information it can contain. You can help your elderly loved one opt-out of receiving junk mail by following the instructions on http://www.OptOutPreScreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688. This eliminates or at least significantly reduces junk mail such as pre-approved credit card offers that provide opportunities for identity thieves. To prevent elderly identity theft you also want to make sure you shred all promotional mail that includes personally identifying information. Remember that simply tossing this type of mail in the trash makes it easier for dumpster divers to steal your loved one’s identity.
4. Keep Private Information Private
Credit cards, Medicare cards, and Social Security numbers are among the most sought after sources of information identity thieves use to commit elderly identity theft. Senior citizens should keep information such as Medicare statements in a safe or safe deposit box, and shred them after confirmed treatments. They should never carry their Social Security card with them and carry their Medicare card only to doctor visits.
Identity thieves regularly take advantage of the fear many senior citizens have about their Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage. A trusting senior citizen may assume that the person at the door, on the other end of the phone line, or in an email are simply doing their job when they ask for their Medicare information. However, a common elderly identity theft scam is for a thief to call a senior citizen and claim to be from the Medicare office. The thief asks for verification of the senior citizen’s Medicare account number so that benefits can be paid, and then disappears with all of the information he needs to create a new identity. Make sure your elderly loved one is aware that the Medicare office will never ask for this type of verification via phone, email, or in person.
Start Preventing Elderly Identity Theft
In addition to following these tips, you should also stay in regular contact with your elderly loved one to keep track of any suspicious behavior. There are also several ways to proactively stop elderly identity theft. Sign-up with a prevention and recovery service such as ID Theft Solutions so the solutions for protecting your identity are all in one convenient place. When your identity is compromised, you will have a personalized, one-to-one partner to take on the time-consuming recovery process on your behalf.