As more data breaches occur and as identity scams become more sophisticated, it’s becoming increasingly commonplace for people across all demographics to become victims of identity theft.
However, one demographic is much more targeted than others. That demographic is senior citizens.
According to the U.S Senates Special Committee, older Americans in the U.S lose a whopping $3 billion per year in financial scams. While not all of this is directly tied to identity theft, it’s one of the most significant.
Video Guide: Protecting Seniors from Identity Theft
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Why Seniors Are Targeted?
There are several reasons why seniors and the elderly are specifically target for identity theft by financial scammers. Here are some of the more common ones:
1. More Of A Nest Egg
For one, older Americans will typically have a lot more money saved up. After all, they have had more years to accumulate savings. Seniors are typically retired which means they have enough money to live on. This makes a senior a much more lucrative target than say someone coming out of college with student debt.
2. Established Credit
A senior has lived longer. Therefore, the chances are, they have a much longer credit history that identity theft fraudsters will be able to leverage. A senior citizen will likely have a better ability to take out credit cards and other loans which can be much more lucrative of a scam than a younger person with less credit history or even with a bad credit score.
3. Less Suspicious
A senior didn’t grow up in the digital age. Because of this, they are much more used to the way the world works outside of it. Thus, they tend to be much less suspicious on the Internet when younger generations are naturally inclined to be suspicious of everything on it.
4. Less Likely To Report Fraud
For one, some seniors suffer from consequences of aging like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Therefore, they may be unable to make accurate judgments and assessments. Even those who are at peak mental capacity, they won’t want to appear as if they are losing the ability to make decisions for themselves for fear that their children or family members may take away their independence and want to put them in an assisted living facility.
These reasons are why many seniors debate whether or not seniors should buy identity theft insurance.
What Steps Should Seniors Take To Prevent Identity Theft?
Here are some safety protection measures and identity theft tips for seniors to take to reduce the chance they will fall victim to identity theft.
1. Avoid Answering Calls or Emails From Unknown Origins
One of the very first things a senior can do to protect themselves from becoming the victim of identity theft would be to completely avoid answer calls or emails from unknown origins. Place all of your friends and family’s numbers into your phone contacts. This will ensure that you are able to pick up whenever someone you know calls. Get a senior friendly phone with talking caller ID. Likewise, for emails, never answer or respond to an email from a sender that you don’t know.
2. Don’t Give Out Information To Callers or Through Emails
If someone does call with a caller ID that corresponds to your bank or a Government institution, hang up, find the corresponding business or institution’s number, and call it yourself. While this may be a hassle and take up more of your time, it is better to be safe than sorry.
A lot of scammers will attempt to put your mind at ease by having their caller ID show up as a business or institution you know. This is easily avoidable by hanging up and calling the official number on the back of your credit card, debit card, health insurance card, or anything else.
3. Consistently Pull and Check Your Credit Reports
As a senior, it’s imperative that you regularly check your credit reports. If you can’t do this yourself, have a family member (who you trust) to do it for you. It’s important that you trust them because over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by a family member. This will ensure that you are staying up-to-date on all of the open and closed accounts you have on your report. You will be able to spot irregularities which can help you figure out whether or not your identity has been compromised.
4. Never Click On Links In Emails
This one may be difficult to remember and to stick to if you didn’t grow up in the digital age. Never click on links in emails. Like you would with a phone call, you want to type in the website’s URL yourself. If something is asking you to update your information or anything else with a link, it could be what is known as a “phishing” scam. These scams are used to deceive you into providing critical information about your identity that can be leveraged to commit identity fraud against you.
5. Set Up Direct Deposit
In order to minimize the chances you have critical information exposed, you should be setting up a direct deposit into your bank account for your social security checks, tax returns, and everything else. The less information you have out there, the better off you will be.
6. Get and Use a Shredder
This holds true for everyone. If you want to minimize the chances important information about yourself gets in the hands of a fraudster, look to dispose of credit card statements, bank statements, and anything else with personal information on them properly. By getting a shredder, you will be able to make it very difficult for anyone to go through your trash to find personal information that can be used against you.
7. Sign Up For Life Premium Identity Protection Services
One of the best ways to protect yourself is by having a third-party company that specializes in this type of protection working around-the-clock for you. As a senior, you likely don’t want to spend time in your life having to worry about such issues. The best identity theft protection plans for seniors will help detect any fraudulent credit applications and notify you whenever your credit is pulled or if it spots irregularities that you should be aware of.
Summary and Final Recommendations
As you can tell, seniors need to be vigilant more than ever before. Unfortunately, scammers target seniors at a higher rate than other demographic segments. This is primarily because the rewards are more substantial and the risk of getting caught is much lower.
Because of this, you need to be cognizant of how often you will be targeted and take the appropriate measures to protect yourself. While nothing is going to offer 100% foolproof protection, implementing the identity theft tips for seniors above should put you in a good position to minimize your risk of becoming an fraud victim.