4 Tips to Save Seniors from Identity Theft

December 17th, 2013 No Comments

Seniors, don’t fall prey to identity theft!

Imagine working hard all of your life and thinking you were finally ready to enjoy the retirement you worked so hard to earn, when all of a sudden you are receiving past due bills for credit cards you didn’t apply for and a significant drop in your credit score. These are all the results of having your identity stolen. Unfortunately, older people are one of the most targeted victims. While Florida ranks #1 with highest rate per capita for reported complaints of identity theft, New Jersey seniors aren’t immune. Seniors are the prime targets because of their vulnerability, typically high credit line and savings accounts. Whether you are a senior or you have an elderly family member or friend or are an elder care giver in NJ, it is important to become educated on ways to prevent identity theft.

1. Carry Around Copies

It is common for seniors to carry their social security, driver’s license or other form of identification that contains their Social Security number. One of the most common places where identity thieves can gain access to a Social Security number is on a Medicare card. To reduce the risk of identity theft, Social Security cards should be left at home and stored in a safe place. When renewing a driver’s license, if given the option of omitting Social Security number from the driver’s license or state ID, opt to leave it off. Although Medicare cards need to be carried in case of an emergency, instead of carrying the original, make a copy and black out the Social Security number.

2. Verify Who’s Calling

One of the most common sources for identity theft is over the phone. It is important that you never give out any personal information, especially your credit card number or bank account information. If anyone calls stating they are from a collection agency, utility company or credit card company, simply hang up. If you do have an account with the company the caller claimed to be from, call the company and speak to a customer representative to determine the nature of the call. Charity organizations often call potential donors, but this is also one of the easiest ways to scam people out of their money as well as identification. Before giving information to a charity organization, visit the Charity Navigator to verify the charity organization is real.

3. What to do with Important Documents

Two of the most important things to invest in is a lock safe box and a shredder. It is not beyond an identity thief to rifle through garbage searching for legal documents that contain all of your information. Store tax returns, Social Security card, credit card statements and any other document that contains your personal information in the lock box. You need to keep tax returns for at least seven years, but anything over 10 years should be shredded. Never throw statements, tax returns or legal documents in the trash; always shred them first.

4. Safeguard Time Online

More and more seniors are using the Internet as a way of connecting with old friends and staying in contact with family. Social media sites, online shopping and online bill paying are easy resources for identity theft. Lifelock on Youtube contains information on how an internet security system can help prevent your identification from being stolen while online. You should never give out personal information while online, especially if someone you do not know asks for your phone number or address. Social media sites are a great place for seniors to meet new friends and stay updated on family events, but it is important to never post when you are going to be away from home, such as going on vacation. If you are unfamiliar with internet security, visit your local library, ask family or a friend or take a local class to learn about firewalls, phishing and staying safe while online.

Guest Author: Sabrina Barnett. Sabrina teaches online classes for multiple institutions.

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