Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention
While identity theft can be an issue for anyone, it is particularly common for older adults. Older Adults are at risk because of their higher cash reserves and home equity, as well as increased access to their information by others.
Experian reported recently that 11 percent of people over the age of 65 report having their financial information stolen.Thieves use your identity to access your bank account, open up new lines of credit in your name, obtain new loans, or even apply for jobs. Identity theft is a huge inconvenience and can be financially damaging.
Monitor your statements and credit report
Monitor your account statements and contact your financial institution if you notice any unusual activity. It’s also a good idea to monitor your credit report each year. Knowing what's in your report may help guard against identity theft.
A credit report contains information on where you live, any credit cards in your name, and any outstanding or delinquent payments. You are entitled to a free credit report once per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
For assistance understanding your credit report or to talk to someone about your finances, contact LSS Financial Counseling Service for a free consultation by calling 888.577.2227.
Tips to help prevent identity theft
Beware of people claiming to offer you something for free or for a greatly discounted price. This scam often takes the form of a huge rate reduction on your mortgage, an offer of a free trip, or a charity. The best way to avoid this scam is to refuse to give personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Consider signing up for the Do Not Call Registry.
Thieves are experts at where to find the information they need to steal your identity. They will go through both household and business trash. The best way to avoid these criminals is to shred any garbage that has your personal information before putting it in the trash. This can include junk mail such as credit card offers, bills, personal records you are disposing of and correspondence that may include your birth date, social security number or Medicare information.
To cut down on the amount of mail you receive with sensitive information: opt out of pre-screened credit card offers.
To avoid online scams, do not follow links in emails to sites that ask for confidential information – even if the link looks legitimate. To access your online accounts, go to the company’s website directly.
If an email comes from a friend or relative but doesn’t contain a message that contains personal information (such as mentioning a name, event or something you have in common), be sure to talk to them directly before opening any attachments or responding to any electronic communications.
Fake emails and websites will ask for your personal information, only to deliver it to an identity thief. Emails that tell you to change your password or ask you to help with a bank transfer are probably fake. For bank transfer or financial aid requests, it is best to ignore these emails and not respond to the person in question.
Pick pockets and thieves target wallets because of the information they hold. Older adults are often a target because they are more likely to carry their social security and Medicare cards in their wallets. Protect yourself by not keeping a copy of either card, or your social security number in your wallet or purse.
Someone who works with your medical or personal records could copy your information from them. This is the hardest theft to prevent, as it could be perpetrated by a medical professional, relative, friend or other trusted individual. The best way to ensure your credit stays safe is to check your credit report regularly for suspicious information.