It seems like this summer’s biggest scam – reported by our clients of all ages – is the Social Security scam Maureen has written about in the past. Here is the most important piece of advice everyone should remember. If someone is calling, or emailing, or texting you out of the blue, and asking you to prove who you are by providing your name, date of birth, social security number or any other sensitive piece of information, just don’t do it. Hang up. Delete. Block. You don’t need to say a word.
We are all vulnerable to identity thieves but much of the action seems to focus against seniors, according to My Prime Time News in “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe.” More than a third of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2017 were from seniors.
Why are seniors more vulnerable to theft? There are a number of reasons. One is that you are a far more interesting target for thieves now than you might have been earlier in your life. You’ve got a lifetime of savings set aside for retirement. While you’ve got that nice nest egg, it’s possible that you may not be up to date on all of the latest ways that thieves use technology to scam people.
Not all seniors know that caller ID can be fooled into showing that a call is coming from Social Security, when it’s really coming from overseas. Email design is so sophisticated that it is easy for an email to be created using logos and typefaces that make it appear like it does come from a big bank—but it’s from a spammer.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to identity theft. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Be smart about your personal information. Never give your personal information out to anyone, don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize and don’t reply to emails from unknown senders.
- Prevent checks or personal information from falling into the wrong hands, by ensuring that Social Security benefits, pension funds and any other retirement income checks are direct deposited into your accounts. All it takes is one paper check from the mailbox for someone to do serious financial damage to your life.
- If you are the caretaker of a family member, proactively protect their finances from fraud. If you have power of attorney, monitor their credit reports to ensure that no new accounts are opened in their name. See What to Do When Parents Can’t Handle Their Finances for more information.
- If a loved one has accidentally given out personal information, have an initial fraud alert placed on their accounts for one year. If they’ve already been a victim of identify theft, have an extended fraud alert place on their accounts.
Identity theft is rampant in this brave new world and can happen even when we are watching for it.
Reference: My Prime Time News (June 2, 2019) “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe”