Identity theft is a fraudulent practice of stealing another person’s personal information and falsely using it for clearing the person’s checking account, open credit cards, rent a vehicle, get a job, or set up a cell phone service. According to statistics, the highest number of victims of identity theft belong to the age group 50 years and above. Seniors become easy targets for identity theft due to the following reasons.
- They have a good credit history.
- Their savings and checking accounts are large.
- Their debt has been almost paid off.
- They rarely check their credit reports, and hence, are not aware when something is off with their credit.
Seniors can be targeted for identity theft by not only unknown persons but also caregivers, friends, and relatives. This makes it essential to safeguard personal information and take care what and with whom to share information related to finances. Here are a few tips to protect against identity theft.
- Make multiple copies of insurance cards: Under normal circumstances, it is not necessary to carry along original copies of Medicaid, Medicare, or any other health insurance document everywhere. In case these documents are required to be carried around, make copies and keep the original documents at home. However, if it is required to carry the originals for a doctor visit, ensure to remove the cards from the wallet and store it safely once back home. Also, redact the last four digits of Social Security number, so that in the case of theft, minimum personal information is revealed.
- Do not share personal information over the phone: Be careful about the amount of information given over the phone, especially in case of unsolicited phone calls from salespersons, marketers, and those posing as customer care representatives from banks. Be wary of callers claiming to be from lottery or sweepstake companies. Telephone scams are the most common ways of doing identity theft. Never share Social Security number, credit/debit card information, or bank account details with anyone over the phone.
- Ensure sensitive documents are secure: Safely store important documents such as Social Security card, extra bank checks, less-frequently used credit cards, credit card statements, tax documents, and insurance papers in a safe box at home. Highly sensitive personal and financial documents can be kept in a safety deposit box of a bank. Never leave the house with important documents scattered about in the open. In case, these documents need to be taken somewhere, immediately store them back safely once back home.
- Destroy financial and personal documents: Unnecessary documents that contain sensitive personal and financial information should not be thrown away as they are. These documents may have valuable information that can be used by identity thieves. Ensure that such documents are shredded properly. Black out all the sensitive information and then shred the documents.
- Safeguard the Internet access and computer: Identity and data theft have become quite easy due to technology. A majority of scammers use techniques such as phishing, spamming, and trojans to steal critical information through email. Educate yourself about all these new-age scamming methods. Install anti-virus software on your computer to protect against hacking programs. Never send sensitive personal and financial information through email. Use strong and difficult-to-guess passwords for various accounts and home internet system.