Identity theft is a real concern for everyone. Even children as young as five months old are vulnerable, which represents a problem that will likely continue to grow. College students have a risk three times higher than others of being fraud victims. But identity theft may be an even bigger concern for seniors: Identity theft increased 25% among seniors between 2012 and 2014. While seniors may have a lower risk of identity theft than other age groups, they tend to be more vulnerable.
Senior citizen susceptibility
One reason a senior may be more likely to be a victim of identity theft is trust. Many seniors grew up during a time when people trusted others to do the right thing. Today, most of us know someone who has been victimized by another person. Senior citizens, regardless of how strong their cognitive skills are, tend to be less aware of risks and may miss scam or con signs.
It is also important to keep in mind that seniors may be more likely to provide information to caregivers because they feel they’re trustworthy. This includes physicians, nurses, and receptionists in physicians’ offices as well as other caregivers. If you hire in-home help, use caution when sharing personal information or leaving personally identifiable information easily accessible.
If you’re a member of the growing population of seniors who shop online, make sure you have a basic understanding of potential online identity threats and take steps to protect yourself. Remember, avoid following links in emails you’re uncertain about and go directly to the website in question instead. When you disclose financial information to complete purchases, make sure you’re on a secure website. In most cases, you can identify these sites by a lock symbol displayed next to the website address.
Identity protection tips
There are some precautions senior citizens can take to reduce identity theft risks.
- Use caution with personal information. Using a shredder before throwing mail away can be invaluable. This protects you from having information stolen from discarded mail. You should shred any document that includes a name or account number of any kind. Using the post office to mail bills, checks, or other sensitive information can also prevent information from being stolen from your personal mailbox.
- Increase telephone call scrutiny. Be aware: Scammers can make telephone calls appear to be from legitimate sources such as your bank or insurance company. Financial institutions will not request a password or PIN by phone. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a caller, return a call directly to the company yourself.
- Monitor your credit and banking. Credit monitoring services like LifeLock, Identity Guard, and ID Shield can help protect you from identity theft. Monitor your bank activity by balancing bank statements monthly and watching for signs of unusual activity on credit cards.
Unfortunately, security breaches — although they may be out of your control — can result in identity theft. Being aware of potential hazards may not provide a security guarantee, but taking preemptive steps to protect yourself from identity theft can make a difference.