While anyone can be a victim of identify theft, your aging mom and dad are more likely to be victims. Thieves realize seniors carry less credit card debt than other age groups, so a criminal applying for credit using an older victim’s information is more likely to be approved. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers age 60 and older filed about 20% of all identity theft complaints.
Here are tips to help your mom and dad avoid identify theft.
- Don’t carry your original Social Security or Medicare card in your wallet. Make a copy of your card and block out the last four digits of your Social Security number so if you lose your wallet or it is stolen, no one can get your full Social Security number.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone. There are many phone scams by thieves who call requesting information under the guise of a legitimate need. Any legitimate requests for personal information are typically done in writing, so you should be suspicious of any phone call you receive for personal information. If you receive a phone call, hang up and verify the legitimacy of the caller before you return the call.
- Don’t carry more personal documents than necessary. Whenever you leave your home, leave behind Social Security numbers, checks, extra credit cards and other financial statements or documents. Be sure to keep these locked in a security box at a secure location. If you’re admitted into a hospital, personal documents should be put in the hands of someone you trust.
- Don’t be a pack rat. You don’t need to keep all paperwork. Shred anything you don’t need to keep, specifically documents with your Social Security number, PINs, credit card statements, canceled checks, expired credit cards and other financial statements. Here is a guide to help you decide how long you need to keep a paper trail.
- Don’t leave behind receipts. Whether you’re at a store, restaurant or gas station, be sure to always take your receipts with you.
- Don’t unnecessarily share personal information online. Be smart about sharing your personal information online. Never respond to emails asking you to verify your password, account number, Social Security number or credit information. Make sure your passwords for websites are secure, and use a mix of numbers, symbols and upper- and lowercase letters. If you’re unsure of a website requesting personal information, don’t share it.
- Do check your credit. You can receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. When you receive a copy of the report, review your personal information, current accounts and credit inquiries. If anything looks suspicious, contact the credit reporting company and your financial institution.
If you believe your aging parent may have fallen victim to identify theft, immediately alert your financial institution, credit card companies, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.