When it comes to identity theft and fraud, there are no age limits — both young children and the elderly are prone to falling victim to identity thieves, not to mention everyone in between those age groups of course.
Senior citizens, in particular, are a vulnerable target for scammers.
If you have concerns about protecting your identity and assets or those of your parents or loved ones then this is one article you won’t want to miss.
Based on joint research conducted by Wayne State University and the Illinois Institute of Technology — which was published in the journal of Clinical Gerontology — psychological conditions increase the vulnerability of some senior citizens. It was found that those who were most depressed had three times higher incidences of fraud, compared to those who were not feeling lonely or socially disconnected.
There is an increasing trend in the financial exploitation of elderly Americans, according to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, with an estimated $3 billion a year in financial losses due to fraud. Surely, this is an alarming matter — one that government agencies and other sectors connected to the care of the elderly should take action on.
New anti fraud tool launched
Luckily enough, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have come up with a financial resource tool called “Money Smart for Older Adults.” This anti fraud tool is supposed to help retirees avoid becoming victims of financial exploitation. Aside from the elderly, it is also aimed at the caregivers and families of retirement-age people.
The tool is actually a package of materials — a curriculum of sorts — which consists of many downloadable and printable documents. In a nutshell though, it basically gives helpful tips that senior citizens and their adult children can talk about together.
The tool also pinpoints some of the most common methods by which scammers take advantage of their elderly victims, namely:
● Sales propositions that ask them not to tell other people about the offer
● Requests for personal information like credit card and driver’s licence numbers
● Suspicious phone calls reporting an emergency that requires immediate action
Aside from this, “Money Smart for Older Adults” also urges retirees and their family members to perform regular credit monitoring so that any suspicious activity may be detected and addressed right away. It also encourages seniors to make sure that they have already arranged for a trusted individual to assume power of attorney when the time comes that they are deemed incapable of managing their own finances.
Supplements to the anti fraud tool: Other ways to help prevent senior citizen identity theft
With the launch of the anti fraud tool, it is hoped that the number of fraud victims among retirement-aged consumers will decrease. Of course, there are other things seniors can do to help prevent identity theft and fraud. Here are some of them:
● Keep all of your important documents in a secure place. These include one’s identity cards, Social Security cards, driver’s licence and birth certificate.
Organize these documents properly and do not leave them lying around in places where it is easy for other people to access your personal data. If you are a senior citizen though, you may want to inform a trusted family member (or friend) about the location of these documents, in case something untoward may happen to you (e.g. sudden illness or death).
● Do not give your Social Security number to anyone unless absolutely necessary. If you will be doing so, make sure it is to someone whom you trust.
● Do not share your passwords (for your bank accounts, email accounts, etc.) with other people, even family members or trusted friends.
● Change your passwords regularly. Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols to increase the security of your passwords.
● If you are a regular Internet user, make sure that you do not share too much information online, especially about things that could expose your financial situation. For example, when sharing posts on your social media networks, don’t go into too much detail about your latest property purchase. Otherwise, you may become a potential target for thieves.
● When you use your credit card to purchase something at a brick and mortar store, make sure that you can see the cashier insert your card to the point of sale machine. If not, you have the right to complain or cancel your transaction. Credit card fraudsters now have technologies that can copy all information stored in your card, so be very careful when using it.
● When using your credit card for online purchases, make sure that you are transacting with legitimate businesses. Always do a background check on any online business that you will be dealing with. If this is too much of a hassle for you, have someone else do it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
● Keep the lines of communication with your bank and other financial institutions open at all times. This way, they can help alert you to any suspicious activity on your accounts, especially if you are traveling.
● Always keep your receipts, and dispose of them properly if needed. The best way would be to shred them at home or at your office first.
● Monitor your credit regularly. When checking your credit report, be on the lookout for discrepancies or suspicious activity and report these immediately if present. Checking your credit score is also one way to help you keep track of your financial activities.
● Never open any email attachments sent by people whom you do not know. The same goes for suspicious links within emails or in your social media networks — these may be phishing scams that aim to get information from you.
In case you forget the tips mentioned above, don’t forget that there is one resource that can provide you with similar helpful information, plus much more — the anti fraud tool mentioned earlier.
Whatever your age, it always helps to be prepared and cautious, especially when it comes to identity theft and fraud prevention.
What do you think about the recently launched anti-fraud tool? Do you find the tips mentioned helpful? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section. Also, if you have found this post useful in any way, go ahead and share it with your friends by clicking on any of the buttons below. And while you are thinking about your finances be sure to check out these tips for Saving Money For Your Future that you might not be doing now.
|Written on 9/3/2013 by Joy Mali. Joy Mali is a staff writer on The Washington Times and Examiner. Her work is also published on Lifehack, Yahoo and other mainstream sites. She likes to share interesting tips to help people manage their personal finances & credit. You can see more of Joy’s articles for Dumb Little Man on her Featured Writer Page.|
Photo Credit: SalFalko