Preventing identity theft

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 02, 2011

Although identity theft hits all demographics, elderly identity theft is on the rise, causing concern for senior safety. Because seniors tend to be less “connected,” most especially when it comes to the Internet and are more likely to get their bank, medical and tax documents delivered via snail mail, identity thieves have grown adept at stealing senior’s mail. Those who are more connected to the Internet make a point of regularly checking up on their finances and other personal details, but elderly identity theft is much more likely for seniors who rarely think about their statements until they arrive in the mailbox.

Seniors may not realize they have become targets of elderly identity theft for weeks or even months, making the situation that much more difficult. Many seniors are left baffled once they realize they have been the victim of elderly identity theft, and don’t even know where to start in the effort to fix the situation. What this means is that serious time delays are possible, which can lead to further abuses of the senior’s identity. Identity theft is a crucial component in security for the elderly and, as such, should be taken extremely seriously.

What is Taken in Elderly Identity Theft?

Healthcare is a leading reason for elderly identity theft—after all, most seniors have one form or another of insurance for medical expenses. Thieves who need major surgery or other treatments choose elderly identity theft as a way to accomplish these medical necessities by using another person’s identity. The major fallout of this scam is that should you need medical attention, it could be denied due to another person using your identity to receive treatment.

Elderly identity theft can also be used as a form of employment fraud. Since many seniors are retired or unable to work, thieves use their identities to obtain employment—and sometimes to reap government benefits as well. Since thieves rarely ever file taxes, this type of employment fraud can remain undetected for years. Seniors are much more likely to have better credit histories—not to mention longer ones. The elderly population tends to have much cleaner credit records as opposed to the under-forty crowd, leading identity thieves to target seniors.  

Finally, those over the age of 60 are less likely to have frequent transactions on their bank accounts. Seniors are not as likely to pay for everything with a debit card, and more likely to know exactly how much they have in their checking and savings, therefore don’t check their bank accounts as regularly. Unfortunately, this laid-back monitoring of bank accounts leaves the door wide open for thieves to practice their elderly identity theft, potentially wiping out entire bank accounts.

How Thieves Accomplish Elderly Identity Theft

Aside from raiding your mailbox, elderly identity theft can be accomplished through stealing a purse or wallet, or contacting you by phone and pretending to be your bank or credit card company, asking you for personal information (known as “phishing). The mail which is taken from your mailbox can include bank or credit card statements, new checks mailed from your bank, pre-approved credit card offers or tax information. Some thieves have been known to file change of address cards with your post office, meaning your critical mail goes directly into their hands. The more sophisticated thieves have gotten elderly identity theft down to a science by using a special storage device while processing your credit card transaction.

Prevention of Elderly Identity Theft

In order to protect yourself from elderly identity theft, you must maintain the absolute maximum level of security over your private information. Never give out private information over the phone unless you are the one who initiated the call. Shred all bank records as well as other discarded mail and documents which can be used to identify you. Know when your regular bills arrive, and if it has not made it on time, call the company to find out why. Request a copy of your credit report periodically—this can really tip you off to any potential identity theft. Since Medicare uses your Social Security number as an identifier, so take extra special care of statements and your Medicare card. Store your new checks—as well as all cancelled checks—in a safe, locked area.

If you have been the victim of elderly identity theft, immediately contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus, contact all creditors and file a report with the police department in your community.



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