9 Ways to Protect Seniors From Identity Theft

My dad was a stickler about identity fraud.

He would have special pens that would thwart check fraudsters. He would lecture me about my use (or misuse) of envelopes that weren’t “security” envelopes. Like any son, I would think that he was a bit over the top about his concerns and didn’t pay attention to yet another of the valuable lessons that he tried to convey to me.

However, with more and more stories about retirees having identity fraud experiences, it’s important to take notice. The Internet Crime Complaint Center claims that 35% of identity theft complaints come from those aged 50 or older. A survey by Experian found that “11% of people over the age of 65 reported that they have had their financial information stolen.”

The belief is that many retirees and seniors are targets because they have higher cash reserves and are often less technologically savvy than others. But this is not just an online issue. The stories about “long lost” relatives calling seniors for money over the phone is a regular activity of con artists today. Believe me, when your nephew or grandchild calls and you are unsure of the sound of their voice (or the reason for their call), it’s as likely to be legitimate as that $500,000 that the Kingdom of Nairobi is going to send you just because they like you.

The story gets even sadder when you learn that a growing place for identity theft is in retirement homes where staff members with access to resident records are selling social security numbers and other personal information to thieves.

So how do you protect yourself?

The following steps can help make protect retirees and seniors from identity theft:

  • Buy a shredder and use it for anything that has personal data on it.
  • Don’t keep your social security card, pin numbers, or passwords in your wallet or billfold.
  • If you’re doing online banking, make sure you only use reputable and secure sites. Two clues are an “s” after the “http” in the website address, and the little yellow lock that appears in the lower tool bar.
  • Avoid “phishing” emails that appear to come from the bank or financial institution but are just devious ways to get you to give out their personal information.
  • Mail any letters with personal details, such as their social security number or account details, from post office collection boxes rather than unguarded personal mailboxes (which can provide a convenient place for the bad guys to steal your information).
  • Keep copies of your credit cards, social security cards, and other important documents in a safe but accessible (only to you and a loved one) place at home. If a credit card is stolen, you’ll have the correct phone numbers at hand to cancel the cards.
  • Monitor your bank statements regularly. This way if any suspicious charges come up you can act immediately.
  • Cellphones, iPads, and other cool technology are also great targets for thieves. We live in a world now where someone can walk by your outdoor Starbucks table and swipe your cellphone without you even noticing.
  • One of the more sad precautions to take is to limit information when writing obituaries for relatives. Con artists will often troll the obit section of local papers in order to create their new (illegal) persona.

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