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Senior Safety and Identity Theft

By September 23, 2015Elder Abuse

Identity theft has become a crime of international proportions. Cyber thieves can enter your home from any corner of the globe, breaking and entering with a mere internet connection. Scammers in your neighborhood, city, or town may be digging through trash to find disposed documents with identity information. Sadly, even a relative may be preying on an elderly family member, trying to get access to their finances in order to pay off debts, or fund addiction.

It’s important to understand why seniors in particular are at a higher risk of having their identities stolen. Older people are more likely to have paid off their debts, and therefore have higher credit ratings, and credit limits. They may have accrued some wealth, and have cash in the bank.

If a senior is comfortable financially, they may be less likely to pay attention to their credit reports. A credit card or loan application filled out with an older person’s information is more likely to be approved, and sometimes without the senior’s knowledge.

There are several signs that may indicate identity theft is afoot. If ever a receipt or a bill is delivered in the mail for services not provided, investigate. Inaccurate information may suddenly appear on health insurance or benefit forms.

Businesses may refuse to accept personal checks. Bank or credit card statements may contain errors or unauthorized transactions or a loan request might be denied. Any of these events would be unusual for a senior with a strong credit rating and money in the bank.

A difficult aspect of identity theft among seniors is that they may be reluctant to report it. Admitting to the incorrect disposal of documents containing sensitive material or posting personal information on the internet may worry the senior. With age, seniors become increasingly worried that people will think they can no longer take care of themselves. Any sign that could be interpreted in that way will be hidden from friends and family.

For an older person, the overreaction or misinterpretation by family and/or caregivers to identity theft, and the threat of loss of independence, is enough to preclude him or her from talking about a problem. In cases where a family member is the perpetrator, a senior may resist, at all costs, condemning their loved one to legal consequences.

Follow these easy steps to help prevent identity theft:

  • Any printed information with identifying names and/or numbers should be shredded before being thrown away.
  • Never keep passwords or other personal information on a file on the computer.
  • When shopping online, check to see that the website’s payment methods are secure.
  • Check bank statements regularly.
  • Be aware of what identity theft looks like.
  • Overall, a stronger knowledge and awareness of how identity theft can happen is one of the best prevention tactics.

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