Senior Identity Threats
Unfortunately, the very differences that set seniors apart from younger generations are the same ones that make seniors attractive targets for identity theft. Add to that the fact that most seniors have spent their lives building credit-worthiness and retirement funds, and that seniors can be far too trusting, and senior identity becomes a problem that’s on the rise.
According to the federal Trade Commission’s recent report, more than half the time, victims knew the offenders who stole their identities---they were friends, co-workers or employees, neighbors, and even family members.
In the last year, almost ten million Americans were the victims of some type of identity theft (up from just over eight million the previous year.) Their losses totaled more than fifty-two million dollars, according to recent data released by the FBI. Thirty-eight percent find out within the first three months, which enables them to resolve the problem in a reasonable amount of time; however, up to eighteen percent don’t find out for four years or longer. Clearly, this makes the resolution process much more complicated and lengthy.
Protecting your information is essential… These steps can help seniors to prevent identity theft:
- Keep your personal and identifying information in a safe, locked away from visitors to your home. Bank statements, credit card statements, Medicare statements, and other personal documents offer a wealth of identifying information. And since identity theft is often a crime of opportunity, finding such information merest the opportunities that even people you trust can’t resist.
- Shred or burn any documents that contain personal information.
- Don’t carry your social security card in your purse or wallet unless you know you will be required to show it. Memorize the number and keep the card locked in your safe or safe deposit box.
- Don’t sign the back of your credit and debit cards. Instead, PHOTO I.D. REQUIRED FOR USE in the signature space. Then when a merchant takes the card to verify it, they should request your ID before completing the transaction.
- When paying credit card bills by check, write the last four digits of the account number on the check memo line. This prevents your credit card number from falling into the wrong hands.
- Don’t have your home phone number, social security number, driver’s license number, or date of birth printed on your checks. In fact, if you have a Post Office Box, use that instead of your home address on your checks.
- Opt out of direct mail credit card offers by calling the Federal Trade Commission’s OPTOUT line at: 1-888-567-8688. Direct mail and credit card contain too much personal information. Identity thieves love to find them in the trash.
Keep a list of your credit card numbers and contact numbers for the credit card companies stored in your safe or safety deposit box. If your card is lost or stolen, you need this information to cancel the account.