Seniors at Risk for ID Theft
January 24th, 2012
Seniors are prime targets for identity theft.
Most seniors lead a different lifestyle than when they were younger. They have more free time and the children may have long ago moved out. Seniors have also spent their entire working life building a nest egg of retirement funds.
Identity thieves know this and they target seniors to take their identity and their finances. Their preferred method is the telephone. 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.
Why are senior citizens targeted so often?
Seniors are prime identity theft targets for a number of reasons. They often have saved a lot more money than younger people who are just starting out. At the same time, they have less people around to help them keep an eye on things.
Seniors are also more trusting of others and less likely to report identity theft because they don’t want family members to think they cannot maintain their independence. An increased need for medical attention would mean increased use of Medicare, resulting in a lot of personal information at various medical facilities. Thieves may even target Social Security checks.
Identity protection tips for seniors.
If you’re a senior and you want to help safeguard your identity yourself, there are numerous precautions you can take. It’s a lot of work but it could lower your risk.
- Keep personal information such as bank statements, Medicare statements and your Social Security number in a safe or safe deposit box.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card.
- Keep credit card numbers secure, you’ll need them if the cards are lost or stolen.
- If you pay bills by check, only include the last four digits of the account number.
- If you order new checks, pick them up at the bank rather than have them delivered.
- Opt out of direct mail offers at the FTC “OPTOUT” line (1-888-567-8688). These mailers include a lot of information and thieves can steal them from your trash.
- Never give out Medicare information over the phone or in answer to an email. Medicare will not request information this way. Better yet, never give out any personal information over the phone.
- If a caller claims to have a too-good-to-be-true deal, it probably is. Ask to see everything in writing before you commit.
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft, place a fraud alert at one of the credit bureaus: Equifax: 800-525-6285, Experian: 888-397-3742, or TransUnion: 800-680-7289.