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Top 5 Ways Seniors are targeted by Identity Thieves and Scams

by Katie Riggs on December 8, 2014

Top 5 Ways Seniors are targeted by Identity Thieves and Scams

Seniors can become easy targets for scams and identity theft because they are often viewed as vulnerable and perhaps socially isolated. Furthermore, seniors often have a significant amount of money in their accounts, which make them an easy target for an identity thief or scam artist.

Now is a great time to help your senior loved ones avoid falling victim to identity theft. Today’s post will focus on the top five ways thieves gain access to our personal financial information and offer tips for protecting ourselves and loved ones.

Most Common Ways Criminals Gain Access to our Financial Information

  1. Stealing Mail – 
    Thieves oftentimes steal mail in order to gain access to account numbers, bank statements, credit card statements and checks.

    Tip: Get a locked mailbox or PO Box. Always be sure to shred mail that contains information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, financial or health information. If your loved one is ordering checks, always have the checks mailed to their bank or financial institution.

  2. Solicitations through the mail – Scammers will oftentimes send solicitations through the mail from fake charities on “official” looking letterhead or authentic looking publications.

    Tip: Help your senior loved ones by reviewing their outgoing mail and donations to charity before they send them.

  3. Calling over the phone – Thieves will call elderly people soliciting donations to fake charities or acting as a representative from the person’s financial institution.

    Tip: Advise your loved ones to NEVER make financial donations to a charities or organizations over the phone using their credit card or bank information. Furthermore, advise them to never give out financial information, account numbers or social security numbers over the phone to someone acting as a representative from their financial institution. Banks and financial institutions do not call their customers soliciting such information.

  4. Credit cards – Identity thieves can also steal your financial information just by swiping your credit card. This can occur in a restaurant, store or anywhere that your credit card is used.

    Tip: Advise your senior loved one to always watch sales people. If they are suspicious about the transaction, advise them to call their credit card company immediately. Also, be sure to close rarely used accounts with unused cards.

  5. Online and through Email
    Identity thieves can often access your loved ones personal data online, either through phishing scams or through spam email that look legitimate.

    Tip: Only access financial data from a computer that is only used for personal banking and financial transactions (not email or Internet surfing). Also, advise your loved ones not to verify their account information from emails requesting such information.

What to do if you or a loved one has fallen victim to identity theft

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately. You will want to follow these three steps immediately:

  1. Place an initial fraud alert
  2. Order your credit reports
  3. Create and identity theft report

For more information, please visit the Federal Trade Commission Consumer website. 

Next week, we will explore the 10 top types of scams targeting seniors.