“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.”
However, this good advice may not be enough today. As we age, we become more vulnerable to scammers and identity thieves. In 2017, more than a third of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission were from seniors, reports My Prime Time News in “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe.”
Why are seniors more vulnerable to theft? There are a number of reasons. One is that you are a far more interesting target for thieves now, than you might have been earlier in your life. You’ve got a lifetime of savings set aside for retirement. While you’ve got that nice nest egg, it’s possible that you may not be up to date on all of the latest ways that thieves use technology to scam people.
Not all seniors know that caller ID can be fooled into showing that a call is coming from Social Security, when it’s really coming from overseas. Email design is so sophisticated that it is easy for an email to be created using logos and typefaces that make it appear like it does come from a big bank—but it’s from a spammer.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to identity theft. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
Be smart about your personal information. Never give your personal information out to anyone, don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize and don’t reply to emails from unknown senders.
Prevent checks or personal information from falling into the wrong hands, by ensuring that Social Security benefits, pension funds and any other retirement income checks are direct deposited into your accounts. All it takes is one paper check from the mailbox for someone to do serious financial damage to your life.
If you are the caretaker of a family member, proactively protect their finances from fraud. If you have power of attorney, monitor their credit reports to ensure that no new accounts are opened in their name.
If a loved one has accidentally given out personal information, have an initial fraud alert placed on their accounts for one year. If they’ve already been a victim of identify theft, have an extended fraud alert place on their accounts.
Identity theft is rampant in this brave new world and can happen even when we are watching for it. Take any steps you can to keep your personal information safe, so you can enjoy a fulfilling retirement and avoid a financial disaster.
Reference: My Prime Time News (June 2, 2019) “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe”