Elderly Identity Theft: Now Let’s Prevent It

Part Two of Two on the growing issue of senior citizens as targets

Last week we looked at a few of the relatively easy methods for identity thieves to prey on the elderly, from the familiar yet damaging online phishing and phone schemes, to outright theft of wallets and personal information at elder care communities, to manipulative tactics by a family member to use a good credit history or social security number.

So if you’re close to an elder, or perhaps you’re a senior yourself, what can you do to prevent this ugly theft?  Here are a few easy but essential actions to take immediately:

Most importantly, keep the Social Security Number safe.  Lock the card in a safe place, along with any other personal information (such a Medicare card) that displays the SSN.  Instead of showing the Medicare card at each visit to the doctors’ office, ask that they keep a copy in the patient file, which is protected by HIPAA law.

The same caution applies to credit cards and unused checks.  Rather than keeping these in an obvious place like a purse or wallet, lock them in a safe location, or give the cards to a trusted person to hold until needed.

Keep an eye on the mail, and know when you should receive certain statements or bills (including utility bills).  If your mail doesn’t arrive when it should, thieves may have stolen it for easy gathering of personal information.

The best bet to avoid receiving unwanted credit card applications and other publications is to call the individual companies and opt out of the mailing lists.  If this isn’t possible, be sure to shred this mail when it arrives.

Set a fraud alert on the credit with each of the credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) that will notify a person when there is a request to increase a credit limit, open a new credit card account, or add a card to an existing account.

And finally, remember to check the credit report often for any sign of an account that wasn’t authorized.  If something isn’t right on the report, immediately cancel the account and report a stolen identity.

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