Because seniors are older and represent a different generation with lesser exposure to technology, for many reasons they are more vulnerable to identity theft. Identity theft is a crime that is on the rise. It involves a criminal stealing personal identifying information to create a new identity or to steal money from the victim. Senior adults are targeted for a few reasons. One reason is that they often have more money saved after a lifetime of working than younger people. Another factor is that personal information for elderly adults often passes through more hands, especially those in hospitals and nursing homes. Senior adults can be more trusting of people and often do not pick up on warning signs. Finally, aging adults are far less likely to report identity theft crimes. They fear that their independence might be taken away by their loved ones. It is important for senior adults and their caregivers to know how to protect themselves against identity theft.
The rapid growth of technology has given identity thieves many new outlets for preying on seniors. Many thieves use email to present themselves as a reputable group or company. In the emails, they request personal information. Seniors provide their information, and the thief has what they need to steal from them. Identity thieves also use phone calls to gain personal information from elderly adults. They may pose as representatives from companies or the government, and ask for personal information. Social media is another place that identity thieves comb to find the personal information of senior adults. To protect their identity, seniors should never give any personal information through unsecured sources, such as email or over the phone. Seniors should avoid sharing personal information on social media. Even information like the exact date of birth can allow identity thieves to obtain information to steal from an unsuspecting adult.
Papers, including mail, are an excellent way for thieves to get personal information. Keep tabs on all important documents and store them safely in a file cabinet that locks, or a safe. If a senior adult is in the hospital or traveling, it is important to stop mail delivery or arrange for daily pick up. Monitoring credit and bank accounts regularly also help to protect the identity of senior adults. Shred old paperwork, mail, and receipts instead of just throwing them away, and be careful when throwing away receipts in places like hotels.
The starting point for seniors to be protected from identity theft is to be informed. Seniors and their loved ones should educate themselves and their loved ones on common scams that identity thieves use. Another way to protect identity is through a monitoring service. For a small fee, companies can monitor online accounts and a person’s social security number to help prevent identity theft.
There are a variety of legal planning tools to help protect seniors and their loved ones from identity theft. The way assets are titled can play a large part in whether those assets can be stolen. Planning with trusts can also provide a layer of protection against identity theft and fraud. A thorough legal plan combined with knowledge and awareness is the best defense. If you’d like to discuss ways we can help, please contact our office at (212) 920-6371.
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