The Federal Trade CommissionÂ Â (FTC) states 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft. This number reflects only the individuals who voluntarily registered a complaint with the FTC. It is unknown how many of those complaints were from senior citizens or how many incidents of identity theft not reported.
Unfortunately, identity theft is a common crime suffered by the elderly. Why are the elderly such a great target? The elderly population is often the most vulnerable due to loneliness, feelings of isolation, memory loss and the elderly are more apt to be trusting. Identity thieves are usually technologically “savvy” and know how to use a small amount of information to steal a large amount of money. In just a few seconds, an identity thief can use a “skimmer“, a scanning device, to scam credit card information from an elderly person. Bank accounts can be emptied before the victim is even aware of the problem.
Below is a list of the most common ways identity theft occurs:
– Stealing incoming or outgoing mail with personal information can be used to empty bank accounts, set up new accounts, create false identities, and much more.
– Garbage dumping or rummaging, looking for personal and financial information.
– Phone scammers pretending to be representatives of the senior’s bank or financial institution or they might state they represent a charitable organization or other association an elderly person would trust.
– Online “phishing” occurs when an individual states they represent a well-known company or financial institution and ask the senior citizen to verify account information or social security number.
– “Skimming” credit card information at restaurants or other retail outlets.
One small piece of information can result in a huge loss for seniors. By the time the senior becomes aware of the theft, it is usually too late, the damage is done and very difficult to recover from.
There are precautions that all seniors should take. The most important way to prevent identity theft is to never give out personal information on the phone, online or through the mail unless the senior personally knows and trusts the person asking for the information and the senior has originated the contact. Guard all credit cards at all times, but limiting the amount of credit cards a senior has is another ounce of prevention. Shred all banking and credit card information, including sensitive mail or anything with personal information on it. Always send mail through a secure mail drop box and receive mail in a locked mailbox or post office box so thieves cannot intercept any personal information. A senior should never allow anyone to make a photo copy of their driver’s license. Most importantly, be diligent to follow all the transactions which occur on the financial accounts, verifying that each transaction is legitimate. If there is any chance an identity theft has occurred, it should immediately be reported to the police and all of the senior’s financial institutions.
At Senior Care Centers, we are diligent about helping our residents understand what can happen if they are careless with their personal information. We work with all of our residents, educating them on the potential risks to their identities and teaching them how to prevent this from happening to them. We also provide secure mailboxes for all of our residents and help them dispose of their trash so that their personal information is protected.