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Protecting Seniors from Identity Theft

Identity theft has become rampant these days and while anyone can become the victim of identity theft, scammers are increasingly targeting the elderly. Identity theft occurs when a thief steals the elderly person's social security number, bank account numbers and other financial or personal documents. With this information, he can open a new credit card account for his own use, apply for loans in the victim's name, drain the victim's bank accounts, and illegally obtain professional licenses, driver's licenses and birth certificates. And often the victims don’t even know their identity has been stolen until charges start showing up on their credit cards or their bank accounts have been cleaned out.

The following are some of the more popular methods that thieves use to steal an identity:

Mail It’s quite common for thieves to steal mail from unlocked mailboxes. They also send mail requesting information that seems to come from trusted sources, printed on “official” documents or letterhead with authentic looking names and logos.

Calling victims on the phone Thieves will also call elderly people, pretending to represent the IRS, charitable associations and the elderly person's bank or financial institution. Unfortunately, many senior citizens believe that these phone calls are coming from a trusted source and are easily duped into giving them information.

Phishing Online, phishing is a common practice. Thieves pretend to be financial institutions or well-known companies and send spam messages asking seniors to "verify" account information and social security numbers. Unsuspecting victims often click on the links and lead the thief directly to their account.

Swiping credit cards Often sales clerks and wait staff in restaurants get access to financial records when they swipe a senior's credit card for a purchase. Thieves use tiny scanning devices to steal the numbers and then use the cards, running up exorbitant bills before the senior is even aware that their identity has been stolen.

To decrease the risk of identity theft, here are some measures that can be taken:

  • Shred all financial documents, bank statements, sensitive mail, credit card solicitations, and documents that contain any type of personal information since thieves also go through garbage..

  • Guard credit cards. Watch sales people and the wait staff in restaurants. If possible, pay with cash.

  • Cut up rarely used or unused cards.

  • Don't let anyone copy your aging parents' driver's license. Anyone doing this has instant access to the senior's address and, from there, can get bank account numbers and personal data.

  • Get a locked mail box or post office box.

  • Have checks delivered to your bank or post office box, not your home address.

  • Make sure the seniors are aware of the types of scams out there.

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