ID Theft Resources

Identity Theft and the Elderly

By Paige Hanson, a Symantec employee

Some 2.6 million senior citizens last year fell victim to identity theft. That’s up more than 25 percent from 2012—suggesting that, in the U.S., identity thieves are increasingly targeting the elderly.

This information comes from a Bureau of Justice Statistics report published by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2015. After reading the report and considering reasons behind the increase, I was reminded of a story my co-worker Becca recently shared.

Becca was making small talk over lunch with her grandmother and a few other residents at her grandmother’s retirement home. After learning that Becca was a LifeLock employee, one woman shared that her identity was recently stolen.

Aside from the issue of identity theft, Becca was struck by how the woman felt about it.

“I’m so ashamed and embarrassed that this happened to me”, she said. “I don’t know what I did wrong.”

Why the elderly are fraud targets

Identity thieves can prey upon seniors The FBI says there are several reasons senior citizens should be aware of fraud schemes, which can involve identity theft:

  • Senior citizens are most likely to have significant savings, to own a home, and to have excellent credit. These can make them targets.
  • Seniors are less likely to report a fraud, sometimes because they may not know they’ve been scammed.

In addition, adults who were “tech savvy” in the workplace may be less so as retirees, possibly putting them at risk of online scams.

Going back to the lunch-bunch scenario, after learning how the woman felt about becoming a victim of identity theft, Becca offered her these tips:

  • Be wary if:
    •  Someone you recently met is interested in your financial history and other sensitive information
    •  A caregiver or relative displays a sudden inappropriate interest in your financial state
  •  Alert your financial institution if you notice:
    • Checks and withdrawals that you can’t explain
    • Checking account and/or credit card statements that don’t show up in the mail, as expected, possibly being diverted to another address

The Federal Trade Commission offers this guidance for those looking out for financial abuse of a senior loved one:

  • Suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney
  • Financial activity the person couldn’t have done themselves
  • Bills not being paid—perhaps a caregiver is using the money for other purposes
  • Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases

Regardless of age, each of us should do all that we can to protect personal information—ours or that of our loved ones—to keep it safe from someone who might use it for fraudulent gain.

Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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