While identity theft in the United States is a growing problem for citizens of all ages and demographics, seniors fall victim to identify theft more often than any other population. Senior identity theft is on the rise for a number of reasons. For one, many seniors carry less debt than those in other age groups, meaning that criminals who apply for credit using an older victim’s identity are more likely to be approved. In addition, seniors are less likely to keep track of their credit scores than younger people, making them less likely to spot instances of senior identity theft.
No matter the reason, the fact remains that seniors are victimized more often and are less likely to report instances of senior identity theft than other age groups. It’s up to family members to help their loved ones stay safe. Here are some tips to prevent senior identity theft.
Knowledge is the first step to prevention. Stay informed of the most common scams reported each year by referring to the “Dirty Dozen” list published by the IRS. This list details the top twelve scams used by criminals to steal individuals’ identities. When family members and caregivers know the risks, they can communicate these risks to seniors who could potentially fall victim to senior identity theft through such scams.
Hang Up the Phone
Since seniors are more likely to have landline phones than people of younger age groups, they are also more likely to fall victim to phone scams. When a caller requests personal information, such as a Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number, hang up the phone. Sometimes an organization, such as a bank or a creditor, may call with a legitimate request for personal information. In these instances, it is important for seniors to take down the name and number of the organization, and then verify the legitimacy of the organization before providing the information. Family members can research any such requests online, too, to help prevent senior identity theft.
Keep Track of Credit Reports
Family members and caregivers should encourage seniors to monitor their credit reports using a free monthly credit service. Even though seniors may not be using their credit to obtain a loan or credit card, keeping track of their credit reports is essential to spotting cases of senior identity theft. Some credit monitoring services also offer free or low-cost identity theft protection, too.
Monitor Financial Activity
More and more seniors are getting online and using social media and email. While it’s a wonderful way to stay connected to friends and family, the Internet also offers another avenue for criminals to take advantage of seniors. Many Internet scams involve transferring money or providing credit or bank information. Family members and caregivers can keep an eye on seniors’ financial activity, including bank and credit card statements, for unusual activity.
Senior placement and advising companies like Right Fit Senior Living Solutions can also advise seniors, their families, and their caregivers on strategies to protect seniors’ wellbeing and prevent senior identity theft.