How to Safeguard Yourself Against Identity Theft and Senior Scams

By on July 16, 2017
identity theft

In today’s increasingly connected and mobile world, the risk of identity theft is greater than ever. In fact research firm, Javelin found that $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million U.S. consumers in 2015, compared with $16 billion and 12.7 million victims a year earlier.

The risk of identity theft is present throughout all stages of life. Adults and children are vulnerable – in other words, identity theft doesn’t care how young or old you are. And for those who are older, even those who are still very active and youthful, identity theft is certainly making its mark on the senior population. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 55 percent of the fraud complaints it received in 2016 were for consumers age 50 and older; those in the 60-69 age group were the largest percentage.

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The reality of identity theft is that it’s more than scams, credit card fraud, and fake e-mails — it’s woven deep into our everyday lives. Identity thieves are everywhere, using a never-ending array of new techniques — vishing, phishing, smishing, skimming, pharming, social engineering, and more. What’s even more alarming is that your everyday activities may unwittingly expose your personal information to identity thieves.

The sharing of our personal information – social security numbers, phone numbers, home addresses, date of birth, email addresses, medical records, tax returns, bank accounts, and credit card numbers – all create innumerable opportunities for identity thieves to pounce.

As we get older our retirement accounts, wills, and legal documents, and even our Medicare information, compounded with all the other IDs, financial accounts, and loans we have makes us more susceptible to thieves. Our lives have been built upon years and years of using our personal information everywhere.

Scams are becoming so prevalent that it’s hard to have a conversation without mentioning the latest one to make national news. There’s the Sweepstakes scam run by perpetrators who contact victims by phone, tell them they’ve won a financial prize, and then require advance payment of a fee to collect the purported winnings. Another swindle is where telephone calls from India threaten arrests unless you pay some purported tax debts immediately. At least 1.97 million people have been targeted, with as many as 200 victimized per week during this scam’s peak last year, according to the inspector general. Scams are so rampant that the U.S. Senate Special Committee on age published a ranking of the Top 10 scams targeting senior citizens.

While it’s important to be aware of scams, it’s also critical to know how to protect yourself and your family from exposure to identity theft.

Here are some tips I’ve learned that can help safeguard yourself, your friends, and your family:

  • Check your bank accounts and credit card statements often Ensure you are signed up for text/email alerts for all transactions so you know what is happening with your accounts.
  • Get rid of unnecessary offers
    Try where the website can erase an individual’s name from unsolicited email lists.
  • Shred banks statements
    These important documents can be taken by con artists and used to take vital information. There are inexpensive shredders at many local stores.
  • Secure your computer
    Make sure you are browsing safely. Take time to verify that your computer’s software is updated, security/antivirus software is installed, and routine backups are scheduled.
  • Be Smart with your mobile phone
    If you absolutely must use public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN); this encrypts your transmissions.

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These are just a few ways to be savvy about protecting your personal information. Knowledge is the best power against identity thieves.

Judy Leary is President of IdentityForce. Under Judy’s leadership, IdentityForce has also earned a 95% customer satisfaction rating, a 98% renewal rating among its members, and a 100% success rate in restoring the identities of confirmed identity theft victims. Thanks to her commitment to members and their families, IdentityForce is the only identity protection provider to earn the Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal. A passionate world traveler and a dedicated volunteer, Judy also supports the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. Judy sits on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Better Business Bureau for Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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How to Safeguard Yourself Against Identity Theft and Senior Scams