Our senior loved ones are at risk, as are we all, for identity theft. The more they become connected, the greater the chance of having their identity stolen grows.
Does this mean we should stop them from getting online and reaping the benefits of technology?
What we need to do is help them do the things necessary to stay secure and protect their identity.
As someone who has had a stolen identity in the past, preventing it from being stolen is a lot easier than trying to get it back and cleaning up the damage!
Preventing Theft of Senior Identities
Certainly we know that if a criminal wants to get what your senior has they will work to find a way to do it, no matter what precautions are taken. However, the likelihood of avoiding identity theft with some security steps can impact your senior’s safety.
Here are some ways you can help your senior loved protect against identity theft:
- If your senior is not looking to buy a house, car or apply for a loan in the immediate future, it is a good time to do a security freeze with the three major credit reporting bureaus. This will keep another person from opening accounts in your senior’s name and restricts anyone from having access to your senior’s accounts or credit report containing your senior’s private information. If your senior wishes to get a loan, their credit can be released for a short time period and re-frozen again.
- Transfer all paper statements to paperless so that a paper statement from creditors or banking institutions won’t get diverted or stolen from your senior’s mailbox. Once these statements are in the hands of criminals they can steal your senior’s identity and open new credit cards in your senior’s name or drain their bank accounts. They do this quite expertly and quickly so that much damage is done before your senior even realizes they have been a victim. You can also get your senior a locking mailbox to secure all their mail. They should also be encouraged not to put payments or valuable information in the outgoing mailbox with the flag up as these pieces are often the victims of stolen mail. Have them go directly to the post office or hand directly to the mail carrier.
- Keep all passwords secure. Change passwords often and use more complex entries that can’t be easily guessed based on a minimal knowledge of your senior such as their birthday or street address. Don’t leave passwords in a place that is easy to find such as in your phone. Write them down if needed to remember but keep the information in a safe place.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone or via email, even if it seems legitimate. Most scammers are very convincing. Banks and businesses will not contact you via email or ask your senior for passwords. Phishing incidents are increasing as more people are falling for the realistic scams that enter our email inboxes every day. Remind your senior not to open email from anyone they don’t know or trust and definitely don’t open attachments contained in emails. Delete before opening, don’t let curiosity get the best of them. Even using Facebook can open their computer up for viruses when attachments and videos can contain malware.
- Be careful where your senior connects to free Wi-Fi and don’t use free Wi-Fi to do banking or any other computer activity requiring a password. It is too easy to steal your information through public Wi-Fi sites or twin routers used by criminals.
- Add your senior’s phone number to the no call list and then have their phone number unlisted to reduce nuisance calls and open them up to potential phone scams.
- Use the password protection on your senior’s smartphone, even if it seems annoying every time it is used. If your senior leaves the phone somewhere or just sitting on a table their personal information will not be open to spying eyes.
- Engage the app FindMyiPhone, or the equivalent for other systems, on the smartphone that helps track a lost phone or tablet and can, even remotely, erase sensitive information if their devices are stolen or lost.
- Use free monitoring services from the bank or other financial institutions so that your senior or you will be alerted if there is suspicious activity on their accounts.
- Tell your senior not to carry their social security card, check book or even Medicare card due to the possibility of a wallet or purse getting stolen or lost with sensitive information in it. Medicare cards have your senior’s social security number on them at this time — hopefully that will change in the future due to the risk of identity theft.
- Keep your senior’s computer protected from malware and security breaches by installing software that can scan it regularly for viruses.
- When using credit cards, inserting PINs or paying with the smartphone, warn your senior’s to look out for ‘shoulder surfers’ who may be trying to steal your PINs and even clone their credit card swipe.
Trusting Ways Open Door to Harm
Criminals, scammers and hackers know all the tricks to get our personal information from us and can use our data to steal our identities.
Seniors are often targets because they are very trusting, having grown up in a time when that was the norm rather than an invitation to criminals.
Many of the 12 tips above target tempering that trusting nature with precaution, simple steps to take away the opportunity for criminals to take advantage of seniors who still want to live as they did in those earlier times.
With a little planning and some education for our senior loved ones, we can reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims. They worked hard for their nest egg and retirement income so it is worth taking the precautions needed to keep their money safe.
And worth the effort of us, as their loved ones, to help them.