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Protecting the Identity of Seniors

by At Home Preferred on October 10, 2012

We all know identity theft is a growing epidemic, and in many respects seniors can be among the most vulnerable. Younger generations are generally more technology-savvy. They tend to be aware of the common strategies thieves use to steal and misuse our personal information, and they understand crooks continue to create new schemes to con even the most astute individual.

Older generations are less likely to keep up with technology, and don’t always realize how crooks can use it to steal their money and their identity. In addition, they don’t necessarily recognize the damage that can be done when someone gets a hold of their personal information. Therefore, it’s up to the younger generations, the children and grandchildren, to help their loved ones protect their identity.

Just as most of us have a shredder at home to shred personal documents, seniors should have a shredder as well. Encourage them to shred anything that could potentially be used to glean personal information. When in doubt, shred it!

In addition, encourage seniors to check their free credit reports annually to watch for signs of identity theft. The real free credit reports are available at Annual Credit Report. They can request their free credit report online, via mail with a request form available at that site or by phone.

Finally, young and old should consider placing a credit freeze on credit bureau records. When you have a credit freeze, sometimes called a security freeze, the credit bureau will not release your credit report information to new creditors. This can thwart a crook’s attempt to open an account in your name, which is exactly what we want to happen.

When you place a credit freeze at each of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), you receive a PIN number that you will use to lift the freeze when you want to allow someone to check your credit. Having a credit freeze will require you to plan ahead for credit because when your credit is frozen, it’s frozen to you as well. However, the peace of mind a credit freeze can have is more than worth the few minutes you will have to take to lift the freeze from time to time.

Additional information is available at the credit bureau websites. The credit freeze services are free to Indiana residents, although some states allow small fees for this service.

Finally, even though thieves often use technology, sometimes their method of choice is simply the phone or mail. Make sure seniors know not to give out their personal information, especially bank information, and a request to wire money is virtually always a theft in the making.

The website for Indiana’s Attorney General includes valuable resources for spotting and stopping crimes against seniors, as well as information about a credit freeze.
Juli Erhart-Graves is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERâ„¢ practitioner with Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors, Inc. Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors, Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor. Registration as an investment advisor does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by securities regulators nor does it indicate that the advisor has attained a particular level of skill or ability. Content is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.