How to Protect Your Senior Parent’s From Identity Theft
In today’s world, anybody can become a victim of identity theft. Elderly people are no exception. Unfortunately, many elderly people do not know they are a victim of identity theft until unexplained charges show up on their credit cards or after their bank accounts are empty.
Identity theft occurs when a person steals another person’s back account number, social security number or other personal or financial information. This information is often used to apply for loans, obtain new credit card accounts, access and drain the victim’s bank accounts or obtain professional licenses, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses illegally.
Why Do They Target Seniors?
Many identity thieves see seniors as an easy target. Older people are often more vulnerable because many are trusting, lonely, and socially isolated. Others may be suffering from memory loss or dementia. This creates the perfect victim profile for an identity thief. Often, seniors are sitting ducks for these scammers.
How Do These Criminals Steal the Senior’s Identity?
The identity thieves are always creating new ways to gather information from their victims. There are several common ways these criminals steal identities.
Identity thieves will steal the senior’s mail. They are looking for tax information, checks, bank statements and credit card statements. They don’t just take these documents from the mail. Some thieves steal the senior’s garbage, to gain access to carelessly discarded personal and financial information.
Instead of stealing mail, some thieves send mail to the senior. This mail appears to be from a trusted source, such as a well-known company, charitable organization, or the victim’s bank. The mail uses “official” letterhead to make the senior believe it is from the actual company.
Calling the Victim on the Phone
Some identity thieves call seniors, pretending to represent the senior’s financial institution or a charitable organization. Unfortunately, many seniors trust that the phone call is actually coming from the trusted source.
Phishing is a common practice online. Identity thieves pretend to be a well=known company, like eBay, or a financial institution. They send spam messages to seniors asking them to “verify” their social security number or account information.
Swiping Credit Cards
Wait staff at restaurants and sales clerks can gain access to a person’s financial records every time a credit card is swiped for a purchase. They use a tiny scanning device that steals the card numbers, then they are able to use the cards. They can run up an exorbitant bill before the senior is even aware that their credit card information was stolen.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
It’s important to remember that identity theft can happen on the phone, in a store or restaurant, online or in person. Do not share your personal information through the mail, on the phone, or on the internet unless you know who the receiver is and have initiated the contact where the information is to be provided.
Buy a Cross Cut Shredder
You or your senior parent should shred all sensitive mail and documents, including credit card offers, bank statements, credit card statements, and tax documents. Don’t just throw these papers in the trash. A thief can go through the trash and steal any information they find.
Guard Credit Cards
When your parent’s hand wait staff, salespeople, or anyone who needs to complete a sale, tell them to watch those people closely. Thieves use a tiny scanner called a skimmer to steal numbers. If they have unused or rarely used cards, get rid of them. The fewer cards your parents have the easier it is to monitor their use. Only provide your credit card information if you absolutely must.
Don’t Let Anyone Copy Your Parent’s Driver’s License
If a person has a copy of your parent’s license, they can gain access to their personal data, bank accounts and other things you want to protect. The exception is using a license to verify a check. However, you should not let someone take the entire license to use the other information on it, which is never necessary.
Mail Letters at the Post Office or a Postal Box
Your parents should try to avoid leaving outgoing mail in their home mailbox. Identity thieves can steal payment slips and checks from your parent’s mail, take the information and use it to steal their identity. The scammers can use the information to get new credit cards in your parent’s name and rob them of all they can get.
Never Provide Personal Information On The Phone
Phone solicitors often offer rewards and prizes as a way to trick people into providing their social security number, bank account information, or mother’s maiden name. With this information, a scammer can wipe out a person’s bank account in minutes.
If your parents order checks, have them delivered to a post office box or to the bank, do not have them shipped to your home address.
How Common Is Identity Theft Among Seniors?
No one can say how many seniors are scammed each year, or even tell the percentage of fraud that targets seniors. According to the Federal Trade Commission that compiles lists of identity theft complaints, nine million Americans have their identities stolen annually. However, this list is made up of victims who voluntarily registered by e-mail or over the phone.
How can you help your senior parents protect themselves? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2014 report, about 19 people become a victim of theft each minute.
We need to start by educating our aging parents that it’s dangerous to trust people on the phone. We also need to warn them that even their own children can steal their identity if they’re desperate enough. Mental illness, serious financial trouble, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse are all factors that can lead an adult child to steal their parent’s bank account numbers during a visit and raid their parent’s back accounts later. Adult children have been caught taking from the people most likely to trust them, their aging parents.
Seniors must be educated to stay alert for these dangers in their family and among their friends. If there is a ” black sheep” in the family with substance abuse issues or serious financial trouble, they should be considered a risk.
Is it possible to thwart an attempt to steal your aging parent’s identities? Even if it’s difficult, we should at least take protective measures. Often the simple solutions are the best.
Assisting Hands Houston is Houston’s #1 provider for elder in home care and assisted living. Visit here to review the other services we offer. Contact us or call today with any further questions you may have.