Fraudsters Target Senior Citizens in ID Theft Scams
Written by: Stephanie Hardiman Simon | Wed, 01 May 2013 18:38:34 +0000
Every day more than 10,000 people turn 65 years old in the United States, according to the Social Security Administration. Unfortunately, as the senior population expands, so do the number of people looking to take advantage of them by stealing their identities or hard-earned nest eggs.
Senior citizens are often prime targets for fraudsters, since many seniors don't know about identity theft and fraud, or have not been widely exposed to the digital world and are unfamiliar with Internet safety protocols.
The bad guys know this and prey upon it.
Common scams include:
Medicare fraud. Fake companies offer seniors medical equipment or products in exchange for their Medicare information. Sometimes identity thieves steal personal information from medical or other records to make fraudulent claims with insurance companies.
Tax fraud. Criminals obtain personally identifiable information and use it to collect tax returns in the victim's name.
Friends and family fraud. Someone the victim knows well—who often has access to personally identifiable information—uses it for fraudulent purposes.
Phone scams. Fraudsters use varying scams—like offering fake giveaways, selling products or posing as government employees—to obtain personal information, like bank account or Social Security numbers.
Sadly, these scams often go unreported, as many seniors may not know they have been victims of identity theft. Sometimes they are too embarrassed to come forward after they have been duped, or they don't know the correct channels of reporting the abuse.
To protect seniors from identity theft. talk with them about the risks and help them establish good habits for keeping their identity secure.
Here are some tips:
Shred all mail that contains personal information. Communal trash cans near mailboxes, like those found in apartment complexes or senior communities, are a treasure trove of information. ID thieves sift through the trash to find bank statements, medical information and credit card applications.
You can remove your name from credit offer lists by contacting OptOutPrescreen.com online or at 1-888-567-8688. Your Social Security number may be needed to complete the process.
Never give out personal information. Government entities will rarely solicit you and will generally wait for you to initiate contact with them. If someone comes knocking, saying they need your Social Security number for a Medicare program, it's likely a scam.
Have credit reports checked annually.
Regularly monitoring your credit
will make you aware of any out-of-the-ordinary activity that could be a sign of identity theft. You can access one free credit report each year from the three major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
Be suspect. Verify charities and companies you do business with whether in-person, on the phone, online or via snail mail. Question the person you're talking to. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they are legitimate. Only use online payment on secure websites. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always err on the side of caution.
Know how Medicare uses your private information. According to Medicare.gov, you have the right to request that Medicare limit how your personal information is used and given out.
File an identity theft report.
If you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, report it to local law enforcement and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
online or by calling 1-877-438-4338. Contact credit card companies, close bank accounts and consider placing a fraud alert on all accounts.
To assist in recovering your identity after a theft, be sure to keep records of everything you do, the people you talk to and the fraudulent charges on your accounts.