Very few people would love the thought of having flashbacks of their life while seated somewhere in a nursing home. In fact, most of the seniors even dread hearing that word in the first place. A good number of them would rather live somewhere quiet in the suburbs where they can breathe in the crisp air, and gladly enjoy how they’ve lived their lives so far.
However, life is not always full of roses for the aged. There are countless things that could happen to seniors if they live outside nursing homes, and one of these things is identity theft. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that the total financial loss attributed to this menace in 2013 is estimated to be $21 billion, a massive increase when compared to 2010 which was $13.2 billion.
Unfortunately, the age difference between seniors and the younger generations is the key factor that makes them targets for identity theft.
Most seniors have spent their entire lives building credit worthiness, and at the same time, they tend to be generous and trusting, and identity thieves are quick to take advantage of this.
Seniors are also less likely to report cases of identity theft for fear that they may be viewed as incapable of taking control of their lives. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 18% of consumer complaints were about identity theft. Of these, roughly 50,000 identity theft complaints were from consumers aged 60 and above. This is a mere 19% of all the complaints that the agency received on this matter.
Summing up all these factors, you get a very easy target for identity theft.
How Can It Be Prevented?
1. Avoid Carrying Your Medicare Card
It would be wise to make a copy of your Medicare card and additionally block out the last 4 digits of your SSN so that in case you lose your wallet, your full social security number will still be safe.
2. Be Wary Of Giving Out Personal Information
Seniors are mostly targeted through phone scams. Whenever you receive a request for personal information from creditors or organization calls, make sure that you hang up the phone call first and then verify the phone number before either picking another call from them or returning the call.
3. Keep you Information Safe
There’s really no need to carry personal documents with you when you won’t need them. Lock up your checks, SSNs, credit cards, and financial statements in a safe either at home or in a different location from your current place of residence. You should also adopt a “need-to-know” attitude in which you inquire why someone would want to know your SSN number, for instance, and what he/she would do with it.
4. Be Vigilant When Going to The Web
The Internet may seem safe for most, but there are a number of risks that are associated with the internet. Firstly, you need to protect your computer by installing an antivirus which is equipped with an anti-spyware so as to prevent people from stealing your personal information via the internet.
Moreover, you need to use strong passwords for important online accounts. Make sure they contain varied characters and symbols.
5. Remember To Check Your Credit Regularly
Some seniors think that there’s really no need to check their credit cards since they aren’t borrowing money for any activities. This, however, makes it easier for an identity thief to stay unnoticed. You should thus consider signing up for a credit monitoring service so that you can be sure there’s no suspicious activity slipping past you.
Other good practices you should adopt to include:
– Having your mail delivered to the post office instead of your home address
– Shredding and burning old documents that contain your information
– Opting out of direct mail credit offers
– Do not sign the back of your credit card or debit card
– Be wary of friends that start asking for small loans or coming up with stories that revolve around financial hardships and needing car equity loans online.
All in all, seniors should know which weaknesses identity thieves exploit and use to steal their identities. Ultimately, vigilance is the best prevention practice since identity thieves could easily up their game.